We’ve all done it – we’re walking and our destination is just across the street. We’re not taking extra steps to the proper zebra-stripe crosswalk at the end of the block, so we peer out into the flow of traffic, wait for a lull, then rush across the street and hope nobody saw our crime of convenience.

Jaywalking itself is defined as pedestrians walking in or crossing a roadway that has traffic, other than at a suitable crossing point. The word originated from the slang term “jay,” which meant a greenhorn who didn’t know how to navigate the big city. But what if I told you that jaywalking is actually legal in New York?

Can New Yorkers Cross The Road Wherever You Like?

Getty Images/Terry Wyatt
Getty Images/Terry Wyatt

There’s no mention of the term jaywalking in the state laws, but in the section dedicated to Vehicle and Traffic laws you’ll find some interesting facts. It starts with this:

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §1151

No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle that is so close that the driver would not be able to yield

Yeah, of course you shouldn’t run out in front of a vehicle that’s too close to safely stop, even if your favorite soccer ball is at stake. But does that cover jaywalking outside a crosswalk? Let’s read on one more.

New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §1152

Pedestrians crossing at any point other than a marked crosswalk/unmarked intersection crosswalk shall yield right of way to vehicles.

No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic-control devices, and when authorized, only in accord with such traffic-control devices.

As long as you always yield right-of-way to vehicles and act in the interest of your safety as well as that of those on the road, it sounds like you can jaywalk to your heart’s content. Unless you do it diagonally, in which case you will be punished to the full extent of the law if caught. Always cut perpendicular.


One more fun note: New York Vehicle and Traffic Law §1150 statespedestrians are subject to traffic control signals.” If you think about it, this means crossing the street off a crosswalk is legal, while walking the zebra-stripes on a Don’t Walk signal isn’t. Check out some of these other crazy laws!

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