A new California law allowing pedestrians to legally jaywalk “as long as it is safe to do so,” goes into effect Jan. 1.
The Freedom to Walk Act, signed by California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), says police officers may continue to cite pedestrians crossing a street outside a crosswalk “only when a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.”
Instead of enhancing pedestrian safety, jaywalking laws often ended up allowing cops to racially profile people and mired low-income residents in fines, backers of the new measure say.
“No longer will law enforcement be able to stop people who are safely crossing the street and burden them with citations and heaps of debt,” Zal Shroff, senior staff attorney at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, told KTLA.
“For too long, our jaywalking laws were used as a pretext to stop and harass people, especially low-income people and people of color. The reforms enacted in [the law] will put an end to that and, in doing so, make all of California safer for pedestrians.”
California Rep. Phil Ting (D), pictured here at a podium in 2017, sponsored the jaywalking bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Photo: Santiago Mejia/San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)
State Rep. Phil Ting (D), a sponsor of the legislation, said it shouldn’t 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.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.