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Sign prohibiting jaywalking in Singapore's Orchard Road

Jaywalking occurs when a pedestrian crosses a roadway where regulations do not permit doing so. Examples include a pedestrian crossing between intersections 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 term's dissemination in the 1920s and 1930s was due in part to the introduction of the automobile.

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 crossings where motorists are required to give way to pedestrians under defined conditions.[1] Elsewhere, the Highway Code relies on the pedestrian making their own judgment on whether it is safe to cross based on the Green Cross Code. If the pedestrian's judgment was correct then no evasive reaction should be required by any drivers, but drivers are expected to avoid hazards and are examined on their ability to do so during the Hazard Perception Test.

Origin of the term

An anti-jaywalking poster created in 1937 as part of the United States WPA's Federal Art Project

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.[2][3]

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]

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]


Jaywalkers cross a congested street in Midtown Manhattan, 1973

People jaywalk for various reasons, including convenience, impracticality of following the law, and sometimes even personal safety, generally to cross the street. Going to a crosswalk can require a long detour. Pedestrians are often forced to walk outside crosswalks, when they are blocked by cars due to traffic congestion or drivers stopping too far forward. The common practice of car-centric 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, they are at times unusable for some Jewish people who observe Shabbat.[8]:112–113 Also, pedestrians are generally unwilling to observe lengthy wait times at signals. They are also more likely to make "informal crossings" at wide roads, or at locations where formal crosswalks are simply too distant to be practical for them to use. Also, pedestrians may dislike using intersections for other reasons, such as being uncomfortable dealing with traffic from a multitude of directions (whereas jaywalking at a location distant from an intersection results in the need to observe only two directions of traffic), or wanting to avoid the extra air emissions generated by vehicles stopping and starting (given that vehicular emissions are significantly less when vehicles are moving at steady speeds).

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 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 view 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.



In Belgium, pedestrians are obligated to use marked crossings if located within 100 metres.[10] However, any physical damage to a pedestrian caused by a traffic accident shall be compensated by the (obligated) insurance of the drivers implied, regardless of the responsibility of the pedestrian in said accident, except if said pedestrian is over 14 and wanted the accident and its consequences to occur.[11]


It is legal to cross all roads except motorways in Finland. Cars are required by law to give way to pedestrians at zebra crossings unless there is a traffic light. Motorway jaywalking is an offence; a fine of €500 is payable for the first offence.


In France, pedestrians used to be banned from crossing a street outside zebra crossings if there was one within 50 metres; the fine was 4 euros.[12] Since November 2010, drivers are required to give way to a pedestrian crossing or showing the intention to cross where it is permitted.[13]


German pedestrians, according to the German Road Traffic Act (Straßenverkehrsordnung) § 25, Abs. 3, StVO (VwV), have to watch the vehicular traffic carefully and cross a street quickly and on the shortest way athwart to the driving direction. If the situation on the street requires, pedestrians are only allowed to cross the street at crossings, t-junctions, or within the markings of traffic lights or crosswalks. Pedestrians who cross the street at crossings and t-junctions have to use existing traffic lights or crosswalks. If a pedestrian wants to cross the street outside the markings of traffic lights or crosswalks he has to carefully convince himself before and during the crossing that the road is clear and wait before crossing if a vehicle approaches. He must not interrupt the flowing traffic.[14] Although 15 meters is not considered "at" the crosswalk or traffic light (KG Berlin VR 78 450), pedestrians must not cross the street 30 meter (BGH VRS 26 327) near a crosswalk and 40 meter (BGH NJW 00 3069: 39-43m; KG Berlin VRS 89 98: 33,5m) near to a traffic light but they don't need to go 200m to a crossroad or 100m to a traffic light (OLG Hamburg VRS 87 249). In heavy traffic pedestrians must not cross the street as they might have to stop on a traffic lane (OLG Hamm, Az. 27 U 115/96).


Jay-walking is an offense. One may cross only at recognized crossing points if there is one within 100m. If caught by the police, the typical punishment is a fine.[citation needed] The same applies to crossing at a red light.


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,[15] 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.[16]


In Serbia, it is illegal to cross roads other than at pedestrian crossings if there is a zebra crossing within 100 m.


In Slovenia, it is illegal to cross the road if the nearest zebra is in a 100-meter vicinity. Any crossing above that distance is legal, except for certain types of roads (highway ets.). Pedestrians have priority over cars.

United Kingdom

The term "jaywalking" is rarely used, and there is no law preventing such an act. In England, Wales and Scotland it is legal to cross (or indeed, walk along) all roads except motorways (where pedestrians and slow vehicles are not permitted), and roads with the "No Pedestrians" sign displayed. The Highway Code contains additional rules for crossing a road safely,[17] 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.[18]

When crossing a road, pedestrians are advised to wait until it is safe to cross. If a pedestrian is crossing the road across a side street where a car is about to turn, vehicles should give way to the pedestrian.[19] 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, as demonstrated in the Arrive Alive campaign.

Zebra crossings can be seen in many roads in towns and cities. These are points where pedestrians can cross with the right of way. Vehicular traffic should stop at zebra crossings, both for pedestrians on the crossing and for any waiting to cross. The Highway Code advises pedestrians to walk within the marked path (studs or stripes) of pedestrian crossings; and not to cross the carriageway over the zig-zag lines painted either side of the crossing itself.

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


In Toronto, jaywalking is an offense and in some cases the practice had been fined frequently.[20]


Jaywalking is not illegal in Mexico. However, on the Paseo de la Reforma, one of the city‘s longest and most important avenues, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, then the city‘s mayor, commissioned the installation of concrete prisms along the avenue‘s central curb, to discourage pedestrians from crossing the road.[21]

United States

State road rules in the United States 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 rightmost side of the road unless this renders them invisible to approaching traffic.

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.[22]

Jaywalking is 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, such as running out in front of a moving vehicle, or crossing after the light is about to change to allow cross traffic to proceed. Penalties for jaywalking vary by state, 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–$1,000.[23]

Jaywalking at a signalized intersection may carry higher fines in some jurisdictions due to disobeying the signalized controls. Many jurisdictions have a separate law defining the difference between jaywalking, or "disobedience of traffic signal controls." Some jurisdictions may fine you up to the same amount as a vehicle running a red light, but no driving points are issued, as the pedestrian was not driving at the time.


In many Asian countries, the low level of traffic control means that jaywalking is often more of a necessity to a pedestrian and is rarely punished outside of major commercial hubs such as Singapore (below). In many countries such as India or Vietnam it is quite common, given the level of traffic, that pedestrians will walk out into oncoming traffic and effectively "carve out" a route to the other side of the road .[citation needed]


In Iran jaywalking is illegal. One may cross only at recognized crossing points if there is one within 150m. Regarding to Traffic laws, jaywalking and crossing when a pedestrian light is red or to start walking when it is flashing is prohibited from the 1970s, If in an intersection there is no pedestrian light, traffic lights would be considered, so it would be illegal when it is red or orange. As of November, 2009, jaywalking carries fines from 300,000 up to 2,000,000 Ir-Rials($9 to $60). The law has almost never been enforced.[24] [25]


A "No Jaywalking" sign from Singapore

In Singapore jaywalking is an offence. A fine of S$20 is payable for the first offence. Repeat offenders can be charged $1000 and a jail term of 3 months though it's rarely imposed.[26]



In Australia, it is illegal to start crossing the road at an intersection when a pedestrian light is red or flashing red.[27] 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 20m of an intersection with pedestrian lights or within 20m of any pedestrian crossing (including a zebra crossing, school crossing, or any other pedestrian crossing).[27] 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.[28]

New Zealand

In New Zealand, the fine is up to NZ$35 for child pedestrians or NZ$45 for adult pedestrians[citation needed] who cross a road without using a marked crossing if there is one within 20 m[29][not in citation given] or those who cross at a red light.[30]

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. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26073797
  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. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Vanderbilt, Tom (11-2-2009). "In Defense of Jaywalking". How We Get From Here To There. Slate. Retrieved 23 November 2009. Check date values in: |date= (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. http://www.lokalepolitie.be/5363/diensten/verkeer/110-verkeerregels-voor-voetgangers-en-fietsers.html
  11. Law concerning the mandatory responsibility insurance for motor vehicles, 21/11/1989, Art.29bis http://www.ejustice.just.fgov.be/cgi_loi/loi_a1.pl?DETAIL=1989112130%2FF&caller=list&row_id=1&numero=1&rech=2&cn=1989112130&table_name=LOI&nm=1989011371&la=F&chercher=t&dt=LOI&language=fr&fr=f&choix1=ET&choix2=ET&fromtab=loi_all&sql=dt+contains++%27LOI%27+and+dd+%3D+date%271989-11-21%27and+actif+%3D+%27Y%27&ddda=1989&tri=dd+AS+RANK+&trier=promulgation&dddj=21&dddm=11&imgcn.x=33&imgcn.y=26#LNK0016
  12. http://www.legifrance.gouv.fr/affichCodeArticle.do?cidTexte=LEGITEXT000006071154&idArticle=LEGIARTI000006517397
  13. Code de la route. - Article R415-11
  14. Fahrbahnüberquerung durch Fußgänger, cases at verkehrslexikon.de
  15. "Forskrift om offentlige trafikkskilt, vegoppmerking, trafikklyssignaler og anvisninger (skiltforskriften)" (in Norwegian). lovdata. 7 October 2005. Retrieved 13 December 2009.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (ch 12 §24, no. 1086 covers pedestrian signals)
  16. Dregelid, Solrun (19 May 2006). "Vil forby å gå på rødt" (in Norwegian). Aftenposten. Retrieved 13 December 2009.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. "1-35: Rules for pedestrians : Directgov - Travel and transport". Direct.gov.uk. Retrieved 2010-04-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Road Traffic Act 1988 (c.52), s.38(7)". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 3 August 2006.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Road Junctions". Direct.gov.uk. Retrieved 2010-04-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. [1]
  21. http://tallerunam2009.files.wordpress.com/2009/04/la_invasi.pdf
  22. Part 4, Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Federal Highway Administration, 2003
  23. Peter DeMarco (2006-08-06). "Boston". Boston. Retrieved 2010-04-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. http://www1.jamejamonline.ir/newstext.aspx?newsnum=100862565256
  25. http://www.police.ir/uploads/4-_%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%88%D9%84_%D8%AC%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%8A%D9%85_%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%87%D9%86%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%8A%D9%8A_%D9%88_%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86%D9%86%D8%AF%DA%AF%D9%8A.pdf
  26. http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Singapore/Story/A1Story20120201-325253.html
  27. 27.0 27.1 Australian Road Rules Feb 2012, Part 14 Section 231(2) Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Aust_Road_Rules" defined multiple times with different content
  28. Australian Road Rules Feb 2012, Part 14 Division 1
  29. http://www.nzta.govt.nz/resources/roadcode/about-other-road-users/information-for-pedestrians.html
  30. "Call for jaywalking crackdown". Television New Zealand. 10 Jun 2006. Retrieved 7 July 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links