Skip to Content

How the Auto Industry Turned Pedestrians Into the Bad Guys

Pedestrian jaywalking

Jaywalking… Kind of a strange term – right? So, where did it come from? Research its origins, and you'll quickly find it was a term used in the 19th century to describe someone who lacks sidewalk etiquette. Look a bit harder, and you'll discover that the auto industry in the 1920s seized on the term, promoting it to newspapers across America as a description of reckless pedestrians.

Why did the auto trade invest so much in that effort? They did it in an attempt to protect the burgeoning industry from liability. In the early years, if a vehicle struck someone walking in the road, it was thought to be the driver's fault. After all, for eons, people had traveled from place to place on foot.

As is usually the case with powerful industries, Detroit succeeded in its efforts. If one looks at reports of pedestrian accidents in papers in the U.S. up to 1923, drivers were typically cited as the guilty party. By 1924, it was the so-called jaywalkers who were at fault for collisions.

So, what was the practical effect of this change in perception? Pedestrians became some of the least protected by insurance companies in the U.S. A coincidence? Nope. Are rules for pedestrians appropriate? Of course.

But many other industrialized nations view pedestrians a bit differently. Pedestrians still have the right-of-way in countries such as Finland, Italy, Switzerland, and the Netherlands, and there is no law preventing jaywalking in the United Kingdom. By statute in Connecticut, pedestrians generally have the right of way in marked and unmarked crosswalks, but not when crossing the road someplace other than an intersection.

Even with all the rules, pedestrian accidents are a significant problem in America. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, approximately one pedestrian is struck and killed in the U.S. every 88 minutes. Emergency departments treat an average of 138,000 pedestrians annually. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data shows that "per trip, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely than passenger vehicle occupants to be killed in a car crash."

Is there any good news with this story? A bit. With efforts to curb climate change taking hold, the tide may be turning in favor of pedestrians. More and more municipalities are working to create dedicated (and safer) pedestrian zones across Connecticut and the nation. Cyclists are being afforded safer spaces as well.

If you or a loved one are ever injured while walking in Connecticut, know that the Connecticut personal injury lawyers at RisCassi & Davis have been assisting people like you who've been injured in these pedestrian accidents for over 60 years. And we have received both state and national recognition for our work in this area. If you are ever injured in an accident of any kind and would like a free consultation with one of our Connecticut personal injury attorneys, please contact us. There is no obligation.

Contact Us Real Lawyers. Real Results

Schedule Your Free Consultation

Call Us Today (860) 245-2412
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.
  • By submitting, you agree to be contacted about your request & other information using automated technology. Message frequency varies. Msg & data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Acceptable Use Policy