Oct 5, 2022
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2147 – also known as the Freedom to Walk Act – into law last week. Assembly Bill 2147 (AB 2147) allows people to jaywalk or cross outside of an intersection without being ticketed, provided there is no immediate danger of a motor vehicle crash.
California Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco introduced AB 2147, which defines when a police officer can stop and cite a pedestrian for jaywalking – specifically “only when a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.”
“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,” Ting said. “Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons.”
A press release from Ting’s office noted that until 2018, it was illegal for people to cross the street at a traffic light when the pedestrian countdown meter began flashing. Furthermore, jaywalkers in California have, prior to the passage of AB 2147, been subject to a $198 fine (which does not include potential court fees).
Yahoo! News reported that California is actually not the first locality to decriminalize jaywalking. In March 2021, the state of Virginia passed similar legislation which, as the Yahoo! report noted, had “no discernible effect on pedestrian traffic fatalities through the rest of the year.”
As a report from LAist.com notes, California AB 2147 does not technically decriminalize the act of jaywalking.
The Freedom to Walk Act is designed to protect pedestrians from jaywalking tickets when crossing the street outside of a crosswalk or against a traffic light, but certain conditions must be met to ensure a citation is not issued by police.
As Assemblymember Ting told LAist.com, while it is still technically illegal to cross “in the middle of the street,” law enforcement are directed under AB 2147 to no longer cite people who do not pose an immediate danger to others (including motor vehicle drivers, bicyclists, other pedestrians, etc.).
” …we’re directing law enforcement not to cite people, unless there’s an immediate hazard,” Ting told LAist.com.
AB 2147 is actually the second attempt by legislators to change the way jaywalking is enforced in California. Last year, Governor Newsom vetoed a previous version of the bill citing concerns that by decriminalizing jaywalking, the bill would “unintentionally reduce pedestrian safety and potentially increase fatalities or serious injuries.”
“I am committed to working with the author, the Legislature, and stakeholders on legislation that addresses the unequal enforcement of jaywalking laws in a manner that does not risk worsening California’s pedestrian safety,” Newsom said at the time of vetoing AB 2138.
As LAist.com notes, how police officers determine what meets the standard of an “immediate danger” will likely lead to “enforcement that’s not completely uniform.”
“I preferred our bill last year. I think it was much cleaner, easier to implement. But this is the version that we were able to settle,” Ting said.
LAist.com reported that local mobility advocates have also raised concerns that AB 2147 might rely too heavily on “officers’ judgment.”
“There’s still that piece of officer discretion,” Tamika Butler, a social justice advocate and private consultant focused on equitable transportation policy, told LAist.com. “As a Black person in this country, officer discretion has never gone well.”
The Los Angeles Vision Zero program aims to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025. Signed as an executive directive by Mayor Eric Garcetti, Vision Zero is an initiative overseen by the city’s Department of Transportation.
However, as the LAist.com report notes, California AB 2147 is not expected to solve the issue of pedestrian-related motor vehicle collisions. John Yi, executive director of the local pedestrian advocacy group Los Angeles Walks, told LAist.com that the Freedom to Walk Act “by no means” solves the crisis of pedestrian deaths.
“The only way we’re going to reduce people being killed from jaywalking is to fix our freakin’ streets,” Yi said to LAist.com
“Unless we fix the actual design of the streets, we’ll have the same outcomes … This in itself will not save L.A., will not save Angelenos, will not save pedestrians. This must be part of a larger effort in our city in our state to have better, safer and more walkable infrastructure,” he added.
Glendale Assemblymember Friedman has also expressed frustration over the action of citing people for jaywalking ultimately having little-to-no effect on a pedestrian’s behavior. Moreover, Friedman notes that it does not improve public safety.
“So why are we doing it so much?” she asked, according to LAist.com
“If people are jaywalking a lot in an area, it’s probably because they don’t have a good way to get across the street,” Friedman said. “I’d rather have communities start thinking about adding more crosswalks, adding better signage, putting a light up, putting up a stop sign, adding a sidewalk – doing all the things that we know actually do make people safer.”
Pedestrian accident injuries are extremely common in the Golden State, particularly here in Los Angeles County. In fact, 893 pedestrians were killed on California roadways last year (a staggering 26% increase from 2014). Furthermore, California’s pedestrian death rate is almost 25% higher than the national average.
In Addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 5,977 pedestrian deaths from traffic crashes which occurred in 2017. That statistic means that a pedestrian accident fatality occurs in the United States approximately every 88 minutes. Moreover, an estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms in 2017 for non-fatal motor vehicle crash-related injuries.
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Contact us today at 818-322-4056 for a free pedestrian accident lawyer consultation. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by ensuring that the insurance company or at-fault party does not take advantage of your rights as a pedestrian accident injury victim. You owe it to yourself to take the steps required to avoid financial loss after an unfortunate pedestrian accident injury that occurred through no fault of your own.
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