Cordoba city in ArgentinaIf you live in other metropolitan cities like New York, Washington, DC or Philadelphia, jaywalking is practically a civic right. In fact, on average the Philadelphia police department issues a whopping nine jaywalking tickets a year, according to the department’s records.

But in Los Angeles, police officers dole out citations like candy on Halloween.  In 2013, LAPD’s Central Bureau alone issued 31,326 tickets.

Crosswalk SignAnd if you step off that curb just a second too late, it could cost you anywhere from $190 to $250. We’re not talking about walking when it says, “Don’t Walk.” We’re talking about taking a 10-second trip across the street when the countdown says there’s 25 seconds on the board. That’s a ticket. If you are still on the sidewalk when the countdown begins, you may not cross.

Many assume the countdown allows you to make an intelligent and informed decision on whether to cross the street. Twenty seconds? I can make it. Five seconds? I’ll wait. And in other states, that certainly is the case. In California, you get no decision.

Here are some decisions you can make to stay safe:

  1. headphonesMake eye contact with drivers before crossing the street. Studies show that drivers stop more often if pedestrians look directly into their eyes as the car approaches the crosswalk. One possible explanation is that staring may trigger a desire in drivers to make a good impression on the pedestrian. (Fun fact: Men are more likely than women to stop if the pedestrian staring at them is a man.)          
  2. Put down your phone and pay attention. Stop the texting, tweeting and Snapchatting. More than 4,500 people in the U.S. are killed crossing the street every year. It can wait.
  3. Don’t wear headphones. It feels great to listen to your favorite song while strolling down the street in the sunshine. But your ears tell you a lot about what’s happening around you. Use them.
  4. no crosswalkYield to drivers when there’s no crosswalk or “walk” signal. Many people think pedestrians always have the right-of-way. They don’t. So don’t play chicken with a moving vehicle.
  5. Be extra careful at night and at dusk. Walking at night increases your chances of death or injury, and that beautiful sunset can also be blindingly below a car’s sun visor. A driver can’t avoid what they can’t see.