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Is Jaywalking Illegal in California?

Is Jaywalking Illegal in California?

Have you ever seen a person cross in the middle of the street, outside of a crosswalk? That’s called jaywalking. While it may seem inoffensive, it could pose a significant danger risk for both the jaywalker and vehicle drivers. The severity of a jaywalking offense varies amongst jurisdictions—which leads to the question, is jaywalking illegal in California? Keep on reading to find out.

Is Jaywalking Illegal in California?

As of January of 2023, jaywalking is illegal in the state of California per Vehicle Code 21955 VC only if the chance of an immediate collision with a vehicle or bicycle is present. However, if there is no close incoming traffic, you can jaywalk -or cross the street outside of a crosswalk – without the risk of being ticketed. Jaywalking is defined as crossing a road/street not utilizing the crosswalk controlled by a traffic signal device or a police officer.

How Much is a Jaywalking Infraction?

Dangerous jaywalking is an infraction worth approximately $196.00. Keep in mind that this is a base fine. The full cost of the ticket will be significantly steeper due to the following:

  • State mandate fees
  • Assessments

The only positive side is that no points will be assessed on your driving record as you are not operating a motor vehicle. Again, if done safely, jaywalking will not result in a ticket. The exact language of the codes reads:

Vehicle Code 21955 VC:

(a) Between adjacent intersections controlled by traffic control signal devices or by police officers, pedestrians shall not cross the roadway at any place except in a crosswalk.

(b) (1) A peace officer, as defined in Chapter 4.5 (commencing with Section 830) of Title 3 of Part 2 of the Penal Code, shall not stop a pedestrian for a violation of subdivision (a) unless a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision with a moving vehicle or other device moving exclusively by human power.

(2) This subdivision does not relieve a pedestrian from the duty of using due care for their safety.

(3) This subdivision does not relieve a driver of a vehicle from the duty of exercising due care for the safety of any pedestrian within the roadway.

Is Jaywalking Illegal in Residential Areas as Well?

Vehicle Code 21955 applies to both non-residential and residential areas. While you are encouraged to cross at crosswalks whenever possible, you should not get an infraction for jaywalking safely.

Can I Sue If I Jaywalk and Get Hit?

If you get hit by a vehicle while jaywalking, you can file a lawsuit against the car’s driver. However, you need to understand that any eventual damage reward will be reduced per the State’s comparative negligence laws. For example, in a personal injury lawsuit scenario, if a defendant is 100% at fault, you will receive 100% of the damages. However, since unsafe jaywalking is illegal in the state of California, you could be considered partially at fault for the accident. So you cannot expect to get 100% of the damages from this type of accident.

Comparative negligence laws will come into play in this type of situation. These laws provide a way to divide the fault between all parties. If the defendant claims that you’re partially at fault, then:

  1. A jury will declare what percentage at fault is due to your own negligence
  2. That percentage will be deducted from your overall award for damages

Example: Bob crosses the street near an intersection marked with a crosswalk. He is away from the crosswalk at the time he crosses. Sandy makes a turn onto the street Bob is crossing. She is looking at her phone and does not see Bob. She accidentally hits Bob and breaks his leg. Bob’s injuries require immediate medical care, regular treatment, and physical therapy. He suffers a damage total of $20,000.00.

Bob files a personal injury lawsuit against Sandy to recover damages from the injury. At trial, Sandy asserts that Bob was partially at fault since he crossed the street outside of the crosswalk. She says that Bob should not receive a full damage award of $20,000.

The jury agrees and finds that Bob was 25% to blame for the car accident. The jury awards Bob $15,000 since he got a deduction of $5,000 (25% of $20,000).

Jaywalking is illegal if done unsafely in California. Even if the crosswalk is a walk away, it’s best to play it safe and do everyone a favor by crossing the street safely using a crosswalk. We hope this blog helped get you informed on California’s latest laws. To keep up with the law, updates, and helpful insights, be sure to keep up with us. Check in with our monthly blogs and follow us on social media for new materials.

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