Jaywalking, as defined by codes that specify what jaywalking is rather than the dictionary definition, is the act of crossing a street when it is unlawful to do so. Governor Jerry Brown officially signed Assembly Bill 390 during 2017. Bill 390 allows pedestrians to use a crosswalk while the countdown symbol is flashing. Previous to January 1, 2018, walking across the street while the countdown was flashing was technically jaywalking, and carried the potential for citation.
Most states do not have single, explicit laws against jaywalking, but rather multiple legal mandates that make certain methods of crossing the street illegal. In California, enforcement of jaywalking is fairly lenient. California Vehicle Codes such as CVC 21106, 21456, and 21955, respectively, determine:
The latter is the classic, legal definition of jaywalking, and is typically the one most commonly enforced by law enforcement officers. The trouble with enforcement of such laws are exceptions to their wording. For instance, is an individual guilty of jaywalking if they do not cross the street entirely, only going into the street and returning to the sidewalk? The codes often specifically use the word cross.
Other codes include language that prohibits failure to yield right-of-way to vehicles when not crossing at marked or unmarked crosswalks, pedestrians unnecessarily stopping or delaying traffic while crossing at a marked or unmarked crosswalk, and suddenly walking or running into the path of a vehicle with no regard for safety.
Although jaywalking is a relatively minor infraction, the costs of jaywalking, whether fines or injuries can be quite high. If a police officer cites you for CVC 21955, you may face a fine as high as $250. That number can get higher if you are in violation of any of the other aforementioned pedestrian walking laws. That’s a higher fine than most parking tickets, and some common traffic citations.
Citations for jaywalking are primarily a deterrent for pedestrians crossing the road with no regard for safety. California ranks high in pedestrian deaths in the country and San Francisco is one of the most dangerous cities for pedestrians as it has the second highest rate of pedestrian injury and death after New York City. In 2015, more than 50 percent of all traffic deaths in San Francisco were pedestrian fatalities – much higher than the national rate of 14 percent.
California state law dictates a pedestrian may generally cross a roadway anywhere along the road without jaywalking. As always with jaywalking, some exceptions apply:
The complications with jaywalking laws can be endless. Can pedestrians cross at anytime, anywhere along an alley because no traffic signal controls the alley itself? Is it acceptable for a police officer to use a jaywalking violation as a pretext for searching or questioning someone who they viewed as a suspicious person? Probably not. Even if the pedestrian did technically break jaywalking laws.
It is important to remember restrictive pedestrian movement laws help reduce and prevent injuries and fatalities. As motorists and pedestrians, be aware of and obey jaywalking codes. They exist to keep people safe. If you were a pedestrian who was injured in a collision, our San Jose pedestrian accident lawyers can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.