From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - View original article

Jump to: navigation, search
Sign prohibiting jaywalking in Singapore's Orchard Road

Jaywalking is a term commonly used in North America to refer to illegal or reckless pedestrian crossing of a roadway. Examples include a pedestrian crossing between intersections (outside or, in some jurisdictions, also inside a marked or unmarked crosswalk) without yielding to drivers and starting to cross a crosswalk at a signalized intersection without waiting for a permissive indication to be displayed. In the United States, state statutes generally reflect the Uniform Vehicle Code in requiring drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians at crosswalks; at other locations, crossing pedestrians are either required to yield to drivers or, under some conditions, are prohibited from crossing.

The United Kingdom does not formally describe priority regulations for drivers and pedestrians at road junctions or other locations, except with respect to marked Zebra, Pelican, and Puffin crossings, where motorists are required to give way to pedestrians under defined conditions.[1] Elsewhere, the Highway Code relies on the expectation that pedestrians in the process of crossing at (unmarked) road junctions receive priority, as a matter of common law.

According to one historian, the earliest known use of the word jaywalker in print was in the Chicago Tribune in 1909.[2] (The earliest citation in the Oxford English Dictionary is from 1917.) The term's dissemination was due in part to a deliberate effort by promoters of automobiles, such as local auto clubs and dealers, to redefine streets as places where pedestrians do not belong.[3]


Origin of the term

The word jaywalk is a compound word derived from the word jay, an inexperienced person, and walk.[4] No historical evidence supports an alternative folk etymology by which the word is traced to the letter "J" (characterizing the route a jaywalker might follow).

In towns in the American Midwest in the early 20th century, "jay" was a synonym for "rube," a pejorative term for a rural resident, assumed by many urbanites to be stupid, slightly unintelligent, or perhaps simply naïve. Such a person did not know to keep out of the way of other pedestrians and speeding automobiles.[5] It may also have been coined from the existing American word Jayhawker, being a term for American guerillas in Missouri in the 19th century.

Originally, the legal rule was that "all persons have an equal right in the highway, and that in exercising the right each shall take due care not to injure other users of the way."[6] In time, however, streets became the province of motorized traffic, both practically and legally. Automobile interests in the USA took up the cause of labeling and scorning jaywalkers in the 1910s and early 1920s; a counter-campaign to name (and disapprove of) "jay drivers" failed.[7]


The reasons people jaywalk vary from the mundane and technical to the religious. For example, traffic signal synchronization produces 'green waves' for motorists but not necessarily for pedestrians, who may encounter little or no conflicting traffic at cross streets where signals instruct them to wait, where signalized crosswalks require a pedestrian to trigger their operation. Pedestrians are generally unwilling to observe lengthy wait times at signals. Commonly, crosswalk signals are unreliable (malfunctioning) and do not permit pedestrians to cross the street. They are also more likely to make "informal crossings" at wide roads. Pedestrians in London were found to be more likely to follow the traffic-engineer preferred way through intersections with a design that is attentive to the needs of pedestrians.[8]:225 Cultural norms about jaywalking vary by locality but cannot simply be explained by corresponding variances in law. Cities like Copenhagen and New York have similar restrictions on jaywalking at signalized crosswalks, but the practice is far more common in New York.[8]:216, 222, 224


Jaywalking is generally perceived[by whom?] as an urban traffic safety problem. Many American newspapers publish stories that are critical of pedestrian road users' safety practices, while police departments often instigate education and enforcement campaigns to curb jaywalking. While nearly three fifths of American pedestrian deaths occur outside of crosswalks, fewer than one fifth occur in close proximity to a crosswalk.[9] When practiced with caution, jaywalking or crossing away from intersections where legal, can be safer for pedestrians than exercising their right-of-way at crosswalks that are not equipped with pedestrian signals. Additionally, unsignalized marked crosswalks where drivers are more likely to yield to pedestrians are not necessarily safer than their unmarked counterparts, where pedestrians behave more cautiously not expecting motorists to yield.[8]:198

Legal issues by jurisdiction

When used in the technical sense, jaywalking specifically refers to violation of pedestrian traffic regulations and laws and is therefore illegal.

In many countries such regulations do not exist and jaywalking is an unknown concept.

United Kingdom

The term "jaywalking" is little used and not very well known. In England and Wales it is legal to cross all roads except motorways (where pedestrians and slow vehicles are not permitted). The Highway Code contains additional rules for crossing a road safely,[10] but these are recommendations and not legally enforceable, although as with other advisory parts of the Highway Code compliance or otherwise can be used to establish liability in civil law proceedings such as insurance claims.[11]

The Highway Code specifically mentions the special case of a car turning into a road which a pedestrian is already crossing; the pedestrian has priority.[12] In UK schools children are taught to cross roads safely through the Green Cross Code. British children are taught to "Stop, Look, Listen and Think", before crossing a road.

In Northern Ireland, jaywalking can be charged at police discretion and usually only in the case of an accident when clearly witnessed. Otherwise, Northern Ireland is essentially the same as elsewhere in the UK.

North America

State and provincial road rules in the United States and Canada typically require a driver to yield the right of way to a pedestrian crossing a road when the pedestrian crosses at a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk. Unmarked crosswalks generally exist as the logical extensions of sidewalks at intersections with approximately right angles. Following the Uniform Vehicle Code, state codes often do not prohibit a pedestrian to cross a roadway between intersections if at least one of the two adjacent intersections is not controlled by a signal, but stipulate that a pedestrian not at a crosswalk must yield the right of way to approaching drivers. State codes often permit pedestrians to use roads which are not controlled access facilities and without sidewalks but they must keep to the leftmost side of the road unless this renders them invisible to approaching traffic.

1937 WPA poster warning pedestrians not to jaywalk

State codes may include provisions that allow local authorities to prohibit pedestrian crossing at locations outside crosswalks, but since municipal pedestrian ordinances are often not well known to drivers or pedestrians, and can vary from place to place in a metropolitan area that contains many municipalities, obtaining compliance with local prohibitions of pedestrian crossings much more restrictive than statewide pedestrian regulations can be difficult. Signs, fences, and barriers of various types (including planted hedges) have been used to prohibit and prevent pedestrian crossing at some locations; where detour to a legal crossing would be highly inconvenient, even fences are sometimes not effective. Street design, traffic design, and locations of major building entrances that make crosswalks the most logical and practical locations to cross streets are usually more effective than police enforcement in reducing the incidence of illegal or reckless pedestrian crossings.

At a signalized crossing, a pedestrian is subject to the applicable pedestrian traffic signal or, if no pedestrian signal is displayed, the signal indications for the parallel vehicular movement. A pedestrian signal permits a pedestrian to begin crossing a street during the "Walk" display; the pedestrian is usually considered to be "jaywalking" only if he entered the crosswalk at some other time. The meanings of pedestrian signal indications are summarized in Section 4E.02 of the national Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.[13]

Jaywalking is commonly considered an infraction but in some jurisdictions it is a misdemeanor or requires a court appearance. The penalty is usually a fine. In some cities (e.g. New York City, Chicago, and Boston), although prohibited, "jaywalking" behavior has been so commonplace that police generally cite or detain jaywalkers only if their behavior is considered excessively dangerous or disruptive. Penalties for jaywalking vary by state or province and, within a state, may vary by county or municipality. In Tempe, Arizona, as of June 2006 jaywalking carried fines up to US$118; a sampling of other U.S. cities found fines ranging from US$1[14]


In Australia, it is illegal to start crossing the road at an intersection when a pedestrian light is red or flashing red[15]. If no such pedestrian light exists, the traffic lights are used, making it illegal to proceed on red or orange. Furthermore, it is illegal to cross any road within 20 meters of an intersection with pedestrian lights or within 20 meters of any pedestrian crossing (including a zebra crossing, school crossing, or any other pedestrian crossing)[15]. However, laws against jaywalking are rarely enforced, with the exception of the occasional police "blitz" on jaywalking for a week or so at a time, when the laws are enforced more stringently. Some roads, such as roads with a record of pedestrian accidents, feature fences in their centres to discourage pedestrians, but there is no law against traversing them[16].

New Zealand

In New Zealand, child pedestrians can be fined NZ$180 or adult pedestrians NZ$4000 for crossing a road without using a marked crossing if there is one within 20 meters, or crossing at a red light.[17]


In Serbia it is illegal to cross roads outside of pedestrian crossings. The exemption is made if there are no zebra crossings within 100 meters.


Singapore has a fairly harsh view of jaywalking and one can go to prison if it goes to court. However the usual penalty is a S$20 fine. The maximum penalty is 3 months in jail.[18]


It is legal to cross all roads except motorways in Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Cars are required by law to give way to pedestrians (but not bicycle riders) at zebra crossings unless there is a traffic light. Pedestrians are encouraged to cross the road at zebra crossings if there is one nearby and are also discouraged from crossing at a red light. In Norway, a red man signal at the crossing indicates that pedestrians must not begin crossing if it would impede cars or entail danger,[19] but a person may walk across if there are no cars nearby. Taking risks and running across in front of cars is not legal. Not everyone is aware that cyclists are required to stop at a red signal, and the Norwegian national cyclists' organization has proposed disallowing all people from crossing at red to reduce the confusion.[20]


In France pedestrians used to be mandated to cross a street only at a zebra crossing, unless there was none within 50 meters. However, the rule was very seldom enforced. Furthermore, since November 2010, drivers must always stop if a pedestrian is crossing or showing the intention to, anywhere along a road, including outside a zebra crossing or pedestrian zone[21]. This law change is akin to the law about pedestrian crossing in Scandinavia (see above), with one exception : although it is illegal to cross in front of driving cars, if the event causes an accident injuring the pedestrian, it is always the car driver that is held responsible.

See also


  1. ^ The Zebra, Pelican and Puffin Pedestrian Crossings Regulations and General Directions 1997.
  2. ^ Peter D. Norton, "Street Rivals: Jaywalking and the Invention of the Motor Age Street," Technology and Culture 48 (April 2007), 331-359 (342).
  3. ^ Norton, Street Rivals."
  4. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Fourth Edition, 2000.
  5. ^ A history of “jaywalking”. February 1, 2009, citing Peter D. Norton, Fighting Traffic MIT, 2008, pp. 72-79.
  6. ^ Miller McClintock for the Chicago Association of Commerce, “Report and Recommendations of the Metropolitan Street Traffic Survey”, p. 133, quoted by Norton, Fighting Traffic, on p. 289.
  7. ^ Norton, Fighting Traffic, pp. 79-79.
  8. ^ a b c Vanderbilt, Tom (2008). Traffic: Why We Drive The Way We Do (and what it says about us). New York: Alfred A Knopf. ISBN 978-0-307-26478-7. 
  9. ^ Vanderbilt, Tom (11-2-2009). "In Defense of Jaywalking". How We Get From Here To There. Slate. http://www.slate.com/id/2234011. Retrieved 23 November 2009. 
  10. ^ "1-35: Rules for pedestrians : Directgov - Travel and transport". Direct.gov.uk. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070108. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  11. ^ "Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52), s.38(7)". Office of Public Sector Information. http://www.opsi.gov.uk/acts/acts1988/Ukpga_19880052_en_2.htm#mdiv38. Retrieved 3 August 2006. 
  12. ^ "Road Junctions". Direct.gov.uk. http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/TravelAndTransport/Highwaycode/DG_070332. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  13. ^ Part 4, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Federal Highway Administration, 2003
  14. ^ By Peter DeMarco   (2006-08-06). "Boston". Boston. http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/08/06/punishable_by_a_fine_of_1/. Retrieved 2010-04-04. 
  15. ^ a b Australian Road Rules Feb 2012, Part 14 Section 231(2)
  16. ^ Australian Road Rules Feb 2012, Part 14 Division 1
  17. ^ "Call for jaywalking crackdown". Television New Zealand. 10 Jun 2006. http://tvnz.co.nz/content/746944/2539670.html. Retrieved 7 July 2011. 
  18. ^ "Advisory Against Jaywalking". Singapore Police Force. 12 May 2009. http://www.spf.gov.sg/mic/2009/090512_jaywalk.htm. Retrieved 19 February 2009. 
  19. ^ "Forskrift om offentlige trafikkskilt, vegoppmerking, trafikklyssignaler og anvisninger (skiltforskriften)" (in Norwegian). lovdata. 7 October 2005. http://www.lovdata.no/for/sf/sd/xd-20051007-1219.html#24. Retrieved 13 December 2009.  (ch 12 §24, no. 1086 covers pedestrian signals)
  20. ^ Dregelid, Solrun (19 May 2006). "Vil forby å gå på rødt" (in Norwegian). Aftenposten. http://www.aftenposten.no/nyheter/iriks/article1322361.ece. Retrieved 13 December 2009. 
  21. ^ See decree 2010-1390 of November 12th, 2010, revising article R.412-37 of the "code de la route".

External links