Under Vehicle Code § 21955, California law prohibits jaywalking only if there is an immediate chance of a collision. Dangerous jaywalking is an infraction carrying $196 plus court administrative fees and assessments, but no points will be assessed on your driving record.
Otherwise, jaywalking will not result in a ticket as long as it is done safely. Still, you are encouraged to cross only at crosswalks whenever possible.
The language of the code section reads:
21955. (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.
(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.
Note that this code section applies in both residential and non-residential areas.
Also note also that some jaywalking pedestrians do get hit by cars. If this happens, you can still file a lawsuit against the car’s driver for any injuries. Though any eventual damage award will get reduced per comparative negligence laws.
Our California auto accident attorneys will discuss the following in this article:
- 1. Is jaywalking illegal in California?
- 2. What is the fine for a VC 21955 ticket?
- 3. Are the rules different in residential areas?
- 4. Can I sue if I am jaywalking and get hit?
1. Is jaywalking illegal in California?
As of January 1, 2023, jaywalking is illegal in California per Vehicle Code 21955 VC only if there is an immediate chance of a collision with a motor vehicle or bike. Therefore if there is no close oncoming traffic, you can jaywalk without fear of being ticketed.
Jaywalking is defined as crossing the street outside of a crosswalk when there is an adjoining intersection controlled by a traffic signal device or police officers.1 “Controlled” means that:
- there are signals in operation, and
- they indicate when you may cross the street.2
The signals often flash:
- “walk,” or
- “don’t walk.”
They can also display a green walking man which indicates you may cross.3
There are times when you must cross a street outside of a crosswalk. If this is the case – pursuant to VC 21954 – you must yield the right of way to any oncoming vehicles.
2. What is the fine for a VC 21955 ticket?
A jaywalking infraction carries a fine of up to $196. Note that this is just the base fine. The total cost of the ticket will be much steeper because of:
- state-mandated fees, and
Note that there are no “points” associated with these tickets. This means jaywalking will not result in a point on your DMV driving record.
3. Are the rules different in residential areas?
Vehicle Code 21955 applies in both residential and non-residential areas alike. You are encouraged to cross only at crosswalks whenever possible. Though you will not be ticketed if you jaywalk safely.4
4. Can I sue if I am jaywalking and get hit?
If you get hit by a car while jaywalking, you can still file a lawsuit against the car’s driver. Though any eventual damage award will be reduced per the State’s comparative negligence laws.
In a personal injury accident lawsuit, if the defendant is 100% at fault for the accident, you can receive 100% of the damages. A different result happens though if you were partially at fault for the accident.
Comparative negligence laws apply to these situations. The laws provide a way to divide up fault between all parties. If a defendant claims that you partially caused an accident, then:
- a jury would decide what percentage of fault is due to your own negligence, and
- that percentage then reduces your overall award for damages.5
Example: John crosses the street near an intersection with a marked crosswalk. He is outside of the crosswalk, though, at the time he crosses.
Sue makes a turn onto the street John is crossing. She is looking at her phone and does not see John. She accidentally hits John and breaks his leg. John’s injuries require immediate medical care, months of treatment, and eventual physical therapy. He suffers a total of $20,000 in damages.
John files a personal injury lawsuit against Sue to recover damages from the injury. At trial, Sue asserts that John was partially at fault for the pedestrian accident since he crossed the street outside of the crosswalk. Because of this, she says that John should not receive a full damage award of $20,000.
A jury agrees. They find that John was 25% to blame for the car accident. The jury then awards John with $15,000. Since he was 25% to blame, his damage award gets reduced by $5,000 (or 25% of $20,000).
Note that you may recover certain compensatory damages in a personal injury suit. These include:
- “economic” damages, such as medical bills, property damage, and lost wages, and
- in some cases, “non-economic” damages, such as pain and suffering.
For additional help…
For additional guidance or to discuss your case with a criminal defense attorney, we invite you to contact us at Shouse Law Group. We serve Californians and tourists throughout the state of California, including Los Angeles, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area, and more. Disclaimer: Results cannot be guaranteed.
For cases in Nevada, please visit our page on NRS 484B.287 – Nevada jaywalking laws.
- California Vehicle Code 21955 VC. AB-2147 (2022). In re S.F. (2014) 224 Cal.App.4th 1575.
- Brown v. Regan (1938) 10 Cal.2d. 519.
- California Vehicle Code 21955 VC. See also CalBike Announces New Legislation to Eliminate Jaywalking Tickets in California, (March 25, 2021) (“Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) — along with CalBike, California Walks, and Los Angeles Walks — has introduced AB 1238, The Freedom To Walk Act, which would decriminalize jaywalking…A stop for a harmless infraction like jaywalking can turn into a potentially life-threatening police encounter, especially for Black people…In 2018, crossing at a traffic light after the countdown meter has begun was legalized…From 2018-2020, data compiled by the California Racial and Identity Profiling Act (RIPA) shows Black Californians are disproportionately stopped for jaywalking, up to four-and-a-half times more than their White counterparts.”).
- California Civil Jury Instructions (CACI) 405. See also Pfeifer v. John Crane, Inc. (2013) 220 Cal.App.4th 1270.