Jaywalking means violating pedestrian traffic laws, most often by crossing a street illegally. While jaywalking is a low level offense, it can draw fines in most if not all jurisdictions.
What Laws Cover Jaywalking?
States define jaywalking differently. Jaywalking laws, typically enacted as pedestrian regulations within a states traffic laws, cover a wide variety of behavior. Local jurisdictions often enact jaywalking laws which are more stringent than state laws.
What Do Jaywalking Laws Prohibit?
Jaywalking laws require that pedestrians obey traffic control signals unless otherwise instructed by law enforcement. For example, beginning to cross the street at an intersection with a Dont Walk sign flashing would violate jaywalking laws.
In addition to traffic signals, jaywalking laws dictate how pedestrians may legally cross the street when no signals are present. Many states require that pedestrians cross only at crosswalks, which can be designated by white lines, or can be unmarked. An unmarked crosswalk is simply an area around 10 to 15 feet wide between two adjacent street corners.
Some state and local laws allow pedestrians to cross certain streets outside of a crosswalk, but require pedestrians to yield to any vehicles when doing so. Generally, pedestrian traffic rules require that pedestrians yield to motorists any time they are outside of a crosswalk.
Many local jaywalking laws forbid crossing an intersection diagonally, unless traffic signals specifically allow diagonal crossing.
Many jaywalking laws forbid walking in the street when a sidewalk is available. Disregarding signs or barricades put up to guide pedestrians also constitutes jaywalking.
Penalties for Jaywalking
Depending on the jurisdiction, jaywalking is either an infraction or a misdemeanor. Police enforce jaywalking laws by issuing citations. The penalty for violating jaywalking laws typically includes a fine similar to a parking ticket. In many jurisdictions, fines increase with repeat jaywalking offenses.
Should a jaywalking incident put others into danger, the jaywalker may also be charged with additional offenses such as reckless endangerment. If a jaywalker disrupts traffic, he or she may also face disorderly conduct or disturbing the peace charges.
Jaywalking and Accidents
In lawsuits arising from injuries to a pedestrian, defendants often claim that the negligence of the pedestrian caused or at least contributed to the accident. Evidence that a pedestrian plaintiff was jaywalking may be presented by the defense to prove contributory or comparative negligence meaning the plaintiff, at least in part, caused his or her injury. This can limit or prevent the plaintiff from recovering for injuries through a lawsuit.