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A slang word used to describe one who crosses a public roadway or thoroughfare at an unmarked crossing.


In America, jaywalking is thought to have been coined in the midwest sometime around the early 20th century. At the time a "jay" was an uneducated rube. Put another way, an ignorant or simple minded individual. Since streets were known to be the home of horses and people, when cars were introudced, people did not believe that they should defer to the giant machines. 

However. the cars would eventually need to make use of the streets as well. It wasnt long before the cars were outnumbering people and something had to give. And so drivers would lable the act of jumping it to the street to cross as "jaywalking".

In this early time in American Jaywalking had a negative conotation to it. Today, the words meaning is simply a moniker.


As automobiles became increasingly popular in the United States in the early 20th century, automobile makers and dealers began to systematically redefine streets as not a place for people, but for cars. As the prevalence of cars on the road increased, so did the need for the maintenance of roads and increased size. As a result, people found themselves involved in vehicle accidents while crossing roads.

Laws were created and crosswalks were born to accomodate people. But it was a slow process and people conitnued to cross the road as they pleased. Jaywalking as it was called, would eventually become cited as an infraction in most states, awhile some municipalities went so far as to label it a misdemeanor. In an attempt to strike a blanace, some jurisdictions have taken a more liberal approach and added traffic in the area for it to be deemed jaywalking.


Jaywalking remains a prevalent problem, especially in urban areas where cars and people fight for space. In addition, todays automobiles have become larger, which makes it harder for drivers to see pedestrians. There is a common misconception that drivers must yield to pedestrians at all times. This is simply not true. Barring a local or city ordinance to the contrary, a pedestrian does not have, in the literal sense of the word, a "right" to cross the street. American cities in the 21st century have come a long way in making sure that their pedestrians have safe, convenient and efficient routes to get around. People would be prudent to make sure they took advantage of these marked crossings. 


Fines can vary, but most of the time individuals are simply given a warning by local police. Note, in certain circumstances, jaywalking may be required where a crosswalk or intersection is not available to cross the road safely. Should a pedestrian find themselves in this situation, they should take caution and make sure that there is no oncoming traffic. No amount of fine shoudl be necessary to realize that a person vs. car will always resutl in the person loosing.

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