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Jaywalking Is No Longer a Crime in California


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California is at it again. The L.A. Times reports that it is now legal to jaywalk in The Golden State — as long as it’s safe.

The bill, called “The Freedom to Walk” bill, was signed into law by Governor Newsom but doesn’t go into effect until January 1, 2023. Under the law, pedestrians can legally jaywalk but at their own risk. From the Times:

Under the new law, pedestrians would be able to legally cross the street outside of designated intersections without the threat of a hefty citation “unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.

Jaywalking and its criminalization is the brainchild of the auto industry who, in the 1920s and 1930s, pushed for laws against pedestrians walking on streets so vehicles could have more room to drive. But the main reason for making it legal was because of the disproportionate effect ticketing has on people of color. Mainly Black people.

The bill was sponsored by state Assemblyman Phil Ting who cited data from California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Act that showed that “that Black Californians are up to 4.5 times more likely to be stopped for jaywalking than those who are white.” “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. Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons” Ting said in a released statement.

With the law going into effect in 2023 it now falls to California Highway Patrol to work with the state’s Institute of Transportation studies to submit a report to the state legislature showing how the law will affect public safety and whether or not it will lead to more traffic deaths. CHP has some time to get it done however as the deadline for the report is no later than January 1, 2028.

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