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education issues & programs

enforcement issues & programs
: overview
: targeting the pedestrian
: targeting the driver
: pedestrian "sting" operation


When people talk about pedestrian violations, they immediately think of "jaywalking". This popular term usually describes a fit and fast person dashing across a street in the "wrong" place. Jaywalking is disorderly in appearance and can disrupt traffic, but it is not a big factor in pedestrian death and injury.

The Seattle Police Department vigorously enforced the anti-jaywalking laws in that city for 50 years, issuing more than 500,000 citations. Seattle's pedestrian crash experience was little different from the rest of the USA where little or no attention was paid to this problem.

Jaywalking enforcement may have a place in eliminating disorder in a city. New York City is working on jaywalking as a public order issue. It is not an effective safety strategy. Jaywalking enforcement is often episodic and inconsistent but is always widely seen as a waste of police manpower. Many police administrators start jaywalk enforcement programs to their later regret!

Police officers should ask themselves "why do I expect pedestrians to go to a crosswalk? Do drivers behave differently there, yielding?" Officers should make the crosswalk attractive. Pedestrians might then find value in going to them.

There are reasonable enforcement targets out there:
  • Pedestrians who push through a crowd of people waiting for a "walk" light and cross illegally.

  • Pedestrians who enter a stream of traffic and disrupt the flow.

  • Pedestrians who "dash out" into the path of oncoming cars.

  • Pedestrians who are drunk (take to a place of safety).
Enforcement action can be a verbal warning or a citation.