Why Is It Called Jaywalking?

Alex Williams
8 Min Read

Usually, people dislike taking a longer path or detour.  So, they jaywalk to cross the street, which is generally restricted by law. But that is not the only reason why people jaywalk. Sometimes they are forced to do so because of fewer sidewalks and congested roads. So, why is it called jaywalking, or why is jaywalking illegal? Research has shown that jaywalking can be legal or illegal depending on the country the person doing it belongs to. Hence, this article will tell you what jaywalking sign is so that you can avoid any penalty in the future.

1. When did Term Jaywalking Originate?

The word Jay used to be a generic word in the early 1900s, used for someone idiotic or stupid. This gave birth to the word Jaywalk, which was used to refer to someone recklessly walking while crossing the road. To jaywalk simply means to walk stupidly in an unsafe place. This term was first mentioned in the 1909 Chicago Tribune, which mentioned chauffeurs hinting bitterness about people who jaywalk. It was also seen in the 1915 New York Times, where it was used as a derogatory term for the poor. Read below to find out why is it called jaywalking.

2. Why is it called Jaywalking?

People crossing the streets in an unarranged manner were considered lower-class and were often known as the pejorative class in terms of the standard of living. Such individuals were deemed ill-mannered lacking sidewalk etiquettes. Thus, jaywalking began to be used in reference to pedestrians who have no regard for crossings present on the road. So to simply answer why is it called jaywalking, it is a reckless walking behavior on the streets, while being completely oblivious to the approaching traffic. (See 6 Most Liberal Cities in the United States)

3. What is Jaywalking Sign?

Many rules are made for the safety of people and signboards are created to raise road awareness among them. One such sign is the Don’t Walk sign called Jaywalking sign. It is a sign showing a human on it, who is not allowed to cross the road. This no crosswalk sign is usually made on a black and white signboard. (See What does the diamond-shaped traffic sign means?)

4. Why is Jaywalking illegal?

Another frequently asked question, besides why is it called jaywalking, is if it’s illegal. People usually think that it is okay to walk around when the road isn’t busy. However, this perception is highly risky as any vehicle could come at high speed, at any time. So, jaywalking is not only illegal but also poses a threat to the person crossing the road and the drivers on the road. Although the initial legal rule stated that everyone has equal road rights, the law was later formed to avoid any accidents due to the increase in motor vehicles. Hence, jaywalking became an illegal practice.

5. Can you Get Away with Jaywalking?

Jaywalking varies locally and even in states & countries. (See How the States got their Shapes)

  • In a city like New York, people still practice jaywalking even though there is a law restriction.
  • However, some countries strictly follow this rule. For instance, China has installed face recognition to identify jaywalkers. If anyone does jaywalk, their photo is displayed on a huge screen and they are publicly shamed.

6. Can you Jaywalk in the absence of traffic in California?

According to the California Vehicle Code, the absence or presence of traffic on the roads does not matter. Pedestrians are not allowed to cross the streets without a traffic control signal along with an officer directing traffic. Additionally, researches show that in the year 2018, more than 14,000 pedestrians were injured, and 893 were killed on the California roadways. Moreover, nearly 7500 pedestrians have died between 2014 and 2018

7. What is the Penalty for Jaywalking?

  • The penalty for jaywalking roughly ranges from a low fee of $1 to $25 in the U.S.A., depending upon the additional surges that it encompasses.
  • However, in Singapore, $50 is the penalty payable by a first-time offender. A repeat offender is charged up to $1000 with jail term of three months. (See What does it Feel like to be in Prison?)

8. How does India handle Jaywalking?

Jaywalking, although, is not explicitly mentioned as a crime in the IPC, charges are implicitly incorporated by the law as the Obstruction of Traffic Act. The various acts that encompass jaywalking include section 28B of the Delhi Police Act, 33B of the Bombay Police Act, and 92G of the Karnataka Police Act. The fine in India ranges between 100 to 500 INR. However, jaywalking is very common because of the lack of pedestrian roads, ignorance of road rules, and poor law regulation by the police.

9. Should We Decriminalize Jaywalking?

Researchers revealed that to achieve the safety of pedestrians, criminalization is the key. However, researches also show that the list of fatal injuries in an accident remains unaffected even after taking the impact. Yet, it is better to let the current status of jaywalking law be retained. (See What does it feel to lose a limb in an accident?)

10. What is the Green Cross Code?

Green cross code is a brand created by the National Road Safety Committee. It is taught to students to raise awareness about road safety and rules. (Also read What is a code gray in a hospital?) It includes:

  1. THINK! – First, find a safe place to cross.
  2. STOP! – Stand on the pavement.
  3. USE YOUR EYES AND EARS! – Look around you for traffic and listen.
  4. WAIT UNTIL IT IS SAFE TO CROSS! – Let the traffic pass and then cross when it is clear.
  5. LOOK AND LISTEN! – When safe, cross the road straight but don’t run.
  6. ARRIVE ALIVE! – Always be aware of your surroundings.

Now that we know why is it called Jaywalking, here’s a safety tip: always ensure you are not distracted by any electronic devices while crossing the road and keep your senses alert!

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