Pedestrians crossing the street outside of a crosswalk or intersection are a common sight for Los Angeles cyclists and motorists. They often endanger themselves as well as others on the road. Right now, they can also get a ticket if a police officer sees them.
Starting next year, that’s going to change. A new law that makes jaywalking legal in California in many cases takes effect on Jan. 1. Officers will be allowed to ticket jaywalkers “only when a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.”
The Freedom to Walk Act
The law, called The Freedom to Walk Act, grew out of a concern that law enforcement officers were targeting certain groups of people for jaywalking tickets. As one San Francisco civil rights attorney put it, “For too long, our jaywalking laws were used as a pretext to stop and harass people, especially low-income people and people of color.”
Further, lower-income people often can’t afford to pay the tickets. The attorney notes, “No longer will law enforcement be able to stop people who are safely crossing the street and burden them with citations and heaps of debt.”
On top of that, advocates for the new law say that lower-income communities have fewer crosswalks. Therefore, pedestrians may have no choice but to jaywalk to get where they’re going. Lower-income people are also less like to have their own vehicles.
The lawmaker behind the legislation sums it up this way: “It should not be a criminal offense to safely cross the street. When expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians.”
More jaywalkers could mean more collisions
The intentions behind the law are good ones and not meant to encourage reckless actions by pedestrians. However, drivers who aren’t aware of the law may be surprised to see someone walk out into the middle of the street. That can lead to collisions with pedestrians as well as cyclists.
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries caused by a driver, regardless of the reason, it’s crucial to get the medical care you need. Don’t settle with their insurer or with them until you know the full extent of your injuries and damages. It’s wise to have legal guidance.