(Olympia, WA) Today, Senator Rebecca Saldaña introduced a bill in the Senate to repeal Washington’s jaywalking laws. SB 5383, “concerning pedestrians crossing and moving along roadways,” would repeal the state law that makes it illegal to cross mid-block and creates provisions that give pedestrians the right to cross where and when it’s convenient and safe. The bill also preempts conflicting local ordinances.
If passed, Washington would become the fourth state to make changes to its jaywalking laws.
“We all want to be able to move about freely and safely,” Senator Saldaña said. “While jaywalking laws may appear well-intended, they don’t actually keep pedestrians safe and may instead put them at risk. National data shows that jaywalking laws are disproportionately enforced against Black people and in neighborhoods lacking infrastructure and resources. Our streets and right of ways need to have the safety of all users built into the infrastructure.”
Study after study has shown that infrastructure and street design are what reduce pedestrian injuries and fatalities. Things like sidewalks, accessible crosswalks, and increasing the time people have to cross before a light changes are the best defense against pedestrian deaths. In October 2022, the Seattle Times reported that Washington state is facing an “epidemic” of inaccessible sidewalks.
Alex Hudson, Executive Director of Transportation Choices, said jaywalking laws don’t keep people safe:
“Jaywalking laws are outdated, unhelpful, and oppressive,” Hudson said. “These laws were written by the car manufacturers over 100 years ago to establish auto-domination of the streets and don’t keep people safe from traffic violence. Now is the time to join Virginia, Kansas City, Nevada, and California in ending jaywalking laws so Washingtonians can get where they need to go.”
Racial bias can affect who gets stopped, what happens, and how steep the punishments are. A 2017 Seattle Times article found that of the 1,710 jaywalking tickets issued by Seattle police from 2010 to 2016, more than one in four went to Black people, who represent just about 7 percent of the city’s population. National numbers make it clear that disproportionate enforcement isn’t just a Washington state issue.
Samuel Martin, Executive Director of Washington for Black Lives, said Washington’s jaywalking laws are out-of-sync with our state’s commitment to equity:
“Washington for Black Lives supports the repeal of Washington’s jaywalking laws because they negatively impact Black and Brown lives, Martin said. “In Seattle, Black pedestrians are targeted more than their white counterparts, with more than a quarter of jaywalking tickets being issued to Black people. We know this issue of racially biased enforcement is pervasive across our state. Punitive measures against communities of color run counter to the promises of equity in Washington.”
Christie Hedman, Executive Director of the Washington Defender Association, said jaywalking enforcement doesn’t protect pedestrians and often puts them at risk:
“The Washington Defender Association and Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers support repealing jaywalking as an infraction because police stops for jaywalking are invasive, unnecessary to protect public safety, and often racially biased,” Hedman said.
You can learn more about the “Free to Walk Washington” campaign at freetowalkwa.org.
Transportation Choices Coalition is a policy and advocacy nonprofit dedicated to making transportation accessible to all in Washington State. We champion policies that support more transit, bike, and pedestrian improvements at the state, regional, and local levels.
MEDIA CONTACT: Jessica Schreindl, firstname.lastname@example.org, 208.290.0500