Seattle, WA

Woman ticketed for jaywalking in Seattle, Washington

Lefty Graves
Crosswalk in Seattle's University DistrictPhoto bySam Battaglieri/UnsplashonUnsplash

** This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as shared with me by my cousin, who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

Many states have laws on the books that we rarely notice; one of these laws is jaywalking. Many people simply cross the street wherever they’re without regard to whether they are crossing in a crosswalk or using a traffic light. It’s not always at the forefront of someone’s mind about whether or not it’s okay to cross the street outside of a crosswalk, but it should be considered before crossing the street.

One afternoon I received a phone call from one of my cousins, and she was very upset because she had just received a ticket. As I listened to her tail of woe, I realized she wasn’t driving when she got the ticket; she was crossing the street on foot. To be more exact, she was crossing the street between traffic lights, outside of the crosswalk, and against the lights.

I asked her where this had happened and had to suppress a smile. My cousin had been across the street from a police precinct. I asked her if it had occurred to her that she might be breaking the law by choosing to cross the street illegally in front of a police precinct. She told me that she hadn't even considered it. She had simply seen a break in the traffic and needed to get to a business near the police precinct. So she crossed when there were no cars coming.

Jaywalking is the act of crossing the street in an unsafe manner, out of a crosswalk, or in some other fashion that can be construed as dangerous. My cousin had willfully chosen to cross the street in a downtown Seattle area within clear sight of a police officer, and he wasted no time in telling her that she was in trouble.

My cousin was extremely embarrassed by getting a ticket for jaywalking. However, what was even more embarrassing to her was that when she went to court to attempt to get the ticket dismissed, the judge told her he would dismiss her ticket if, and only if, she attended a class where she would spend 8 hours learning proper cross walking techniques. As a minor, my cousin could do this in lieu of a ticket.

My cousin dutifully attended her class, along with a few other violators of the pedestrian laws of the Emerald City, and earned her way out of a ticket. Here, they would practice safe techniques to cross the street. They had to actually stand up and practice stopping at a light, waiting for the light to give them the go-ahead to cross the street, and remaining in the crosswalk.

Today, whenever we’re about to cross a street, my cousin performs a visual to see if she is in a crosswalk or near a police precinct. She definitely doesn’t want another jaywalking ticket. How often have we done something without considering the potential consequences? How many other obscure laws are out there that we fail to comply with? Pedestrian accidents happen every day, and it’s important to safely cross the street. What do you think? Should a person be given a ticket for jaywalking?

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Lefty has been writing online since 2000 on various topics, including youth mentoring, addiction recovery, parenting, gardening, advocating for seniors, sustainability, farming, and an eclectic mix of other topics. She resides on a farm with her family in Northeastern Washington state.

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