Almost everyone jaywalks, but many still want it to be illegal

September 25, 2014, 1:59 PM GMT+0

Americans aren't convinced jaywalking should be legal, even though the vast majority have done it before.

Jaywalking is when a pedestrian crosses a road, ignoring either a red signal telling them that they cannot walk yet or crossing somewhere other than an indicated pedestrian crossing. This is a criminal offense across most of the United States, with offenders generally facing small fines, though in practice jaywalkers are rarely ticketed in most larger cities. Particularly in larger cities such as Chicago or New York even applying the law and ticketing people can be highly controversial.

The latest research from YouGov shows that most Americans (78%) admit to having jaywalked. In fact, only 13% of Americans say that they have never jaywalked. Despite this 40% of Americans say that they support jaywalking being illegal in their community, while only 30% say that it should be legal to cross wherever you like or against the light.

Most Americans (63%) say that they usually wait for the signal before they cross, while 34% say that they generally just cross when they think it is safe, regardless of whether it is their light or not. There is a significant regional divide on this question, though, with people in the Northeast being nearly evenly split between people who wait (51%) and people who just walk (46%). Just over a third of people in the South (38%) and the Midwest (33%) say that they cross when they think it's safe regardless of the light, while only 18% of people in the West do the same.

Police in the United States may overlook jaywalking, but in China the authorities have adopted a different approach. At certain intersections notorious for jaywalking, the police have taken to deploying mobile fences that prevent people from crossing until they have the light.

Full poll results can be found here.

Image: PA