Californians will soon be able to jaywalk without getting ticketed, allowing pedestrians to informally cross streets "as long as it’s safe to do so."
The change comes after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed "The Freedom To Walk Act" on Friday, assemblymember Phil Ting, who sponsored the bill, announced. The new law, which will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, says police officers can only ticket someone jaywalking when there is "an immediate danger of a collision."
Jaywalking laws have been around since the emergence of cars, and while it is illegal in many states, it's hardly enforced in major cities like New York City. Ting said the laws are "arbitrarily enforced" in California, and up until 2018, pedestrians could be ticketed for crossing a designed crosswalk when the countdown meter began to flash.
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Ting added the law prevents potentially escalating police stops, as he says tickets are disproportionately given to people of color and lower-income individuals who cannot afford to pay a ticket. The assemblymember's office said data from the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act showed from 2018-20, Black Californians are four-and-a-half times more likely than white Californians to be stopped by police for jaywalking.
Instances involving jaywalking have also resulted in public outrage in the state. In September 2020, protests ensued in Southern California after police in the city of San Clemente fatally shot Kurt Reinhold, a 42-year-old Black man who was homeless, after officers stopped him for jaywalking, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"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 in a statement. "Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons."
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jaywalking in California will soon be decriminalized