Power to the pedestrians: In California, jaywalking — most of the time — will no longer a crime.
Because of a bill signed recently by California Gov. Gavin Newsom, the “Freedom to Walk” act, pedestrians will no longer have to be anxious about being fined if they stray onto the street to crossing outside of designated intersections or against a red light.
Under the new edict, which takes effect January 1, walkers who may make missteps can only be ticketed by police if they’re judged to be creating a safety hazard. Fines currently in effect are as much as $250.
Assembly member Phil Ting of San Francisco, who helped to write the legislation, said that it was time to “reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians.” Others have charged that the jaywalking laws unfairly target specific groups. Data cited by Ting’s office from the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act shows that Black Californians are up to 4.5 times more likely to be stopped for jaywalking than those who are white.
According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, drivers struck and killed an estimated 7,485 people on foot in 2021 – the most pedestrian deaths in a single year in four decades and an increase of 12% from the previous year, resulting in 774 additional lives lost. In 2020, the percentage of pedestrian fatalities involving speeding rose to 8.6%, a notable increase from 7.2% the previous year, the association reported.