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Starting March 1, jaywalking will be decriminalized in Virginia

Advocates say it’s significant because while police can add on a jaywalking ticket to a separate crime, it can’t be the reason they stop you, to begin with.

NORFOLK, Va. — Starting March 1, police will no longer be able to stop people for jaywalking.

It’s a provision in a pretextual policing bill introduced by Delegate Patrick Hope (D-Arlington).

Jaywalking is crossing or walking in the street illegally, most often associated with ignoring crosswalks.

The new law decriminalizes jaywalking, but it doesn’t make it legal. However, advocates say it’s significant because while police can add on a jaywalking ticket to a separate crime, it can’t be the reason they stop you, to begin with.

They believe the bill will reduce police interactions with people of color.

An audit in New York back in 2019 found that 90 percent of unsafe crossing tickets were issued to Black and Hispanic people. Similar data hasn’t been compiled in Virginia.

On the other side, some opponents of the new law argue it encourages people to jaywalk, therefore making the roads more unsafe. They also believe it sends the wrong message when it comes to how car crashes involving pedestrians are handled. Typically, if a pedestrian hit by car is at fault even by just one percent, they won’t get any compensation. The new law doesn’t change that.

In Virginia, the numbers aren’t great when it comes to pedestrian fatalities. While the numbers were down this year because of the pandemic, these types of crashes have increased steadily over the last decade, from 75 pedestrian fatalities in 2010 to 124 in 2019.