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Is Jaywalking Legal in California?

You might have heard that jaywalking has been legalized in the state of California. While this is not exactly true, a significant change in the law did take effect on January 1, 2023. Pursuant to new legislation enacted through Assembly Bill 2147, law enforcement officers are now restricted from stopping and citing pedestrians for jaywalking unless the pedestrian’s actions pose a hazard.

What Exactly is "Jaywalking"?

In California, jaywalking doesn't correspond to a specific legal offense. It's a colloquial term referring to certain pedestrian behaviors that may contravene traffic laws. These behaviors vary by state, leading to a lack of uniformity in the term's application. Commonly, jaywalking is understood to include:

  • Crossing roads outside designated crosswalks

  • Crossing where no crosswalk exists

  • Ignoring pedestrian traffic signs or signals

The Origins of Jaywalking Laws

The concept of jaywalking emerged in the 1920s with the advent of automobiles. As road usage shifted from pedestrians and horse-drawn carriages to motor vehicles, pedestrian-vehicle collisions increased, leading to public concern. Historians often point to the automobile industry's role in framing jaywalking laws, shifting the onus of road safety from drivers to pedestrians.

The Rationale Behind California's New Jaywalking Law

The amendment to California's pedestrian laws arose from concerns over discriminatory enforcement. Advocates highlighted that jaywalking laws were disproportionately used to target minorities and residents of less affluent neighborhoods. These areas, often lacking adequate pedestrian crossing infrastructure, faced higher jaywalking citations, leading to financial burdens. Additionally, concerns over escalations during jaywalking stops, leading to police confrontations and community unrest, played a significant role.

The new legislation, Assembly Bill 2147, signed by Governor Newsom and sponsored by Assemblymember Phil Ting, aims to decriminalize jaywalking in scenarios where no immediate danger is posed.

The Benefits of the New Legislation

The revised jaywalking laws in California are expected to:

  • Reduce unnecessary police-pedestrian confrontations

  • Foster fairness in communities with limited crosswalks

  • Alleviate burdensome fines

  • Curtail racial profiling

  • Promote walking as an eco-friendly and healthy practice

Implications for Drivers and Pedestrians

Under the new regulations, pedestrians are still obliged to adhere to traffic signals and signage. Citations can be issued only if a pedestrian’s actions result in a potential traffic hazard. Pedestrians must remain cautious, avoiding sudden movements that could endanger themselves or motorists. Conversely, drivers should remain vigilant, particularly in pedestrian-heavy areas.

In conclusion, while the new law modifies the enforcement of pedestrian road-crossing rules, it emphasizes the need for continued caution and mutual respect between drivers and pedestrians to ensure road safety for all.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto versus pedestrian accident, contact Phillips & Associates for a free consultation today. You will immediately be put in touch with John Phillips or Patrick DiFilippo, who can help determine whether you have a case and advise you on the best course of action moving forward.


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