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New California law changes rules for pedestrians

A new law in California eases up on the rules for pedestrians crossing busy streets, and in at least one city, police are using the new law as an opportunity to educate pedestrians about safety.

Before the new law, it was illegal for a pedestrian to cross a street after the walk signal began flashing. Doing so was technically jaywalking. But now, it is okay to cross during the flashing of the signal, as long as the pedestrian makes it across by the time the signal's countdown timer has hit zero. If the signal has no countdown and is just a flashing hand, crossing is not allowed until the color changes to white.

Police in Sacramento launched a campaign to educate pedestrians about the new law. The city usually has about 10 pedestrian fatalities every year, but in 2017, that figure nearly doubled. City police say that they often receive complaints about pedestrians not following rules. The campaign, which is called 'Wait for the Walk," was designed to educate, rather than punish, pedestrians. During the campaign, an officer gave a man who crossed on a red walk signal a crosswalk flyer instead of a citation.

The city is also installing new crosswalk signals as part of its efforts to improve pedestrian safety. The goal set by city leaders is to reach zero fatal accidents by 2027.

When a driver of a car hits a pedestrian, there is almost no question that the pedestrian will suffer the more severe injuries. That does not necessarily mean it is always the driver's fault, but when it is, the driver could be held accountable and ordered to pay compensation. A driver might be negligent in a pedestrian accident if, for example, he or she failed to yield the right of way to the pedestrian, was distracted or was speeding.

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