California “Jaywalking” Law

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California passed the “Freedom to Walk Act” in 2022, and the law took effect in January of 2023. The goal of this law is the reduce the number of police confrontations and major fines related to jaywalking, as these citations tended to impact some areas of the state more than others, typically areas with a larger minority population or lower socioeconomic status. Here, we want to discuss the intent of this law and what it means for California residents.

Jaywalking is no Longer a Crime

As of January 1, 2023, AB 2147 went into effect and essentially legalized jaywalking. Governor Gavin Newsom signed this bill into law in 2022, and this reversed some of the most strict jaywalking laws in the entire country. Historically, pedestrians crossing the road against a light or outside of a designated crosswalk area could be stopped by law enforcement officials and issued a fine of up to $250.

Unfortunately, California’s jaywalking law disproportionately affected those living in low-income communities and communities of color. These are areas where law enforcement officials were much more likely to issue jaywalking citations, much more than in wealthier, whiter neighborhoods.

Pedestrians Still Need to be Careful

The new jaywalking law in California does not give pedestrians the freedom to do whatever they want on the roadway or around the roadway. Pedestrians are still responsible for not crossing or entering a street when there is an immediate chance of a collision with a moving vehicle.

If a pedestrian does get struck by a vehicle while jaywalking, liability will be determined on a case-by-case basis. A pedestrian can still file a claim against another driver if they sustain an injury, but just because an individual was not cited for jaywalking does not mean they are free of liability for the incident. 

Pedestrians could be found completely or partially at fault for the incident if they entered the roadway against a light or at an area without a crosswalk and if they did so when there was a reasonable chance that they would be struck by a vehicle.

What Drivers Need to Know

As a driver, we encourage you to remain vigilant behind the wheel. Please be aware of any pedestrians you see on the roadway or anywhere near the roadway, especially if they look like they may be trying to cross the road. This new jaywalking law does not allow individuals to simply go across the street anytime they want, but drivers should always remain aware of their surroundings and be prepared to stop.

What Pedestrians Need to Know 

Even though you, as a pedestrian, will likely not receive a citation for jaywalking, it is imperative to only cross the street at locations where it is safe to do so. Preferably, this includes an intersection or a marked crosswalk. In the event there is no intersection or marked crosswalk, pedestrians should ensure they only cross if there is no imminent danger of being struck by a moving vehicle. We encourage pedestrians to cross the street in a well-lit area if they are doing so at night.

If you have been injured in a pedestrian accident caused by the negligent actions of another party, we encourage you to reach out to a skilled attorney as soon as possible. A Long Beach pedestrian accident lawyer can examine your case and help you determine the next steps.