Is walking a criminal act? It can be. When a pedestrian becomes a jaywalker, a police officer can cite them for crossing the road outside a marked crosswalk. This sometimes triggers additional police interactions.
California’s current jaywalking laws could even be creating dangerous situations between well-meaning walkers and law enforcement officers. A simple citation can become a criminal investigation or even a violent confrontation.
CalBike, the bicycle and pedestrian safety organization, calls the current state of jaywalking laws unjust, arbitrary, racially biased, and potentially lethal. That’s why they’ve been working with state assembly member Phil Ting to introduce AB 1238, also known as the Freedom to Walk Act.
It would decriminalize jaywalking and legalize “safe, commonsense street crossing when traffic permits.” Here’s what you need to know about the act and its potential impact.
Current Pedestrian Laws in California
First, let’s review the existing laws intended to prevent pedestrian road accidents in California. Although there are many myths and misunderstandings about these laws, our state already has strong protections in place for pedestrians.
Under current California law, pedestrians in crosswalks automatically have the right of way. But pedestrians don’t automatically have the right of way in all situations. (And neither do motorists!)
Outside of a crosswalk, a pedestrian can’t just step into the path of a vehicle but a vehicle driver is still responsible for exercising due care to avoid hitting any pedestrian in the roadway. A motorist isn’t permitted to carelessly run over someone whether that person is in a crosswalk or not.
This brings up the ongoing confusion about marked vs. unmarked crosswalks. As a rule of thumb, remember that a California crosswalk doesn’t have to be marked for a pedestrian to legally use it. Unmarked crosswalk injuries are protected by law!
However, a law enforcement officer can cite someone for jaywalking – meaning crossing the street outside a crosswalk – under CVC 21955. The citation comes with up to a $250 fine and often brings other problems like increased insurance rates and unwanted interactions with police.
What Would Change Under the Freedom to Walk Act?
With the Freedom to Walk Act in place, jaywalking citations would end. Whether or not a walker is using a marked/unmarked crosswalk, they could cross the road without worrying that they’re doing something that will trigger police involvement.
Lower-income people, who are more likely to be pedestrians, would be freed of the sting of expensive jaywalking tickets. And theoretically, it would also free up police time that’s currently spent dealing with jaywalking citations.
Plus, it would strengthen the position of pedestrians as equally important California road users. The Freedom to Walk Act could go a long way toward preventing motorists from assuming people with cars own the roads.
Worried about safety? Although some may question the impact of AB 1238 on motorist-pedestrian safety, CalBike is careful to point out that this isn’t about making the law laxer. The current laws will remain in place to protect pedestrians and motorists alike.
As CalBike explains on their official Freedom to Walk campaign page, “The Freedom to Walk Act does not change existing law that already requires pedestrians to avoid potentially hazardous situations on the roadway. It will merely legalize what people are already doing: finding the best routes to safely walk in their neighborhoods.”
After a Pedestrian Accident, You Need Legal Representation
Of course, all the laws in the world won’t stop bad drivers. There will still be motorists who negligently run over pedestrians and cause traumatic, life-changing injuries. The silver lining is that you, as an injured pedestrian, likely have the law on your side.
Under California law, it’s your right as an injured pedestrian to pursue pedestrian accident compensation. Here at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers, we have great sympathy for pedestrians injured on California’s streets, so contact us as soon as possible for compassionate legal representation.
We Handle Your Pedestrian Accident Claim So You Can Focus on Your Life
After a pedestrian accident, contact the attorneys at Sally Morin Personal Injury Lawyers. We handle many areas of personal injury law, including pedestrian accidents. We believe you should be able to focus on recovering from your accident while we handle the legal details. We truly care about the people of California. Call 877-380-8852 today for a free case evaluation.