Why Was Jaywalking Made Illegal?

Often you find yourself that you don’t have any zebra crossing near you, but you need to cross the road. So, you check carefully and do it. Well, you have just made an offence for jaywalking!

So, what is jaywalking?

Jaywalking is illegally crossing the road and may seem like a usual act. But this is a minor offence and illegal in most jurisdictions. This is mainly because of the safety of the pedestrian.

However, jaywalking was not always a matter of fault before the early 1900s. It eventually became so. So, let’s find out why jaywalking was made illegal?

What Is Jaywalking?

Jaywalking is a minor offence, as we earlier stated. It is when a pedestrian illegally crosses the road. Usually, there are crosswalks or foot-over bridges for pedestrians to use.

Also, you will find signals that indicate when it is okay to cross the road. So, if you cross the road without taking the crosswalk or following the signal, it will be jaywalking.

It is not equally serious in all jurisdictions. Some consider it a minor offence, while some as a misdemeanour. While it doesn’t create any problem, sometimes it can result in a severe accident.

History of Jaywalking: Why Was Jaywalking Made Illegal?

There is no known history of where this practice started, but many believe it was New York or Kansas City.

Before automobiles, there were carriages and streetcars everywhere. And people used to crossroad hastily back then too. At that time, ‘Jay’ was someone with no regard or knowledge of urban etiquettes. 

But jaywalking wasn’t a big deal. And even after the introduction of automobiles, people didn’t seem to care much about it either.

As a result, in the first few years, almost 250,000 people lost their lives. After that, this situation came under notice, and the authorities started finding a solution for it.

During the 1920s, the cities started becoming car-friendly with sufficient sidewalks and awareness about jaywalking. And by the year 1930, authorities established laws against jaywalking and spread it everywhere.

The Crime of Jaywalking: The Recent Scenarios

The truth is, there is no strict rule against jaywalking. Instead, each state or city has their own rules to prevent jaywalking.

For example, some states allow pedestrians to crossroad without any signal sign. But others have rules against it. Just like the penalty or fines also vary from state to state. 

Again, the traffic signals are also different in different places. Some places don’t allow texting or other activities while walking; some allow it.

In the USA, Michigan can be a significant example of not having any jaywalking laws. Instead, every town is responsible for its own rules.

In some states, it is the responsibility of the driver to stop when there are pedestrians.

Confused? Well, the situation is such. The best idea is to check the town or city’s jaywalking law beforehand.

Note that: Jaywalking is not illegal in Canada. However, if you face any accident during this, you might have to face several consequences.

What Are The Dangers Of Jaywalking?

The main danger that jaywalking possesses is that it can catch the driver off-guard. The sudden crossing of the road can surprise the motorist and make him do a dangerous thing. It can harm both the driver and pedestrian, even taking someone’s life.

Usually, it is difficult for the drivers to change the vehicle’s course, especially if it is a large vehicle. So, the pedestrian must follow the traffic rules to reduce the risk of an accident.


If there is no crosswalk, check for the nearest intersection. Follow the signal when it is okay to cross the road. Do not cross the road in heavy traffic and never so while using the phone. Always look at both sides before crossing the road.

What Happens If You Have An Accident For Jaywalking?

If you are jaywalking and face an accident and have an injury, you can still sue the other party. There are good chances that it will fall under comparative negligence law in such personal injury cases. And you may be found at fault to some extent.

On the other hand, it will certainly reduce the defendant’s liability. The court will make the final decision on who was at fault and what percentage. You may be at fault, and the court asks you to contribute the compensation.

For example, suppose you were crossing the road while texting and got hit by a car. The court finds out that both you and the driver are at fault. You and the driver should have been careful in such an incident.

Here, the court will determine what percent fault was yours. Now, for jaywalking and not paying attention, your fault was 30% in this accident. So, you’ll get 30% less compensation than you were supposed to get.

Final Verdict

Hopefully, now, you know why was jaywalking made illegal. Despite how petty or minor the crime is, it can be a real danger to your life. Therefore, it is always better to follow the traffic rules and acknowledge the state’s jaywalking rule.

And if you are somehow in trouble with jaywalking accident, get an experienced lawyer who can help you in this regard.

Leave a Reply

Back To Top