Jaywalking Tickets and Pedestrian Safety in Seattle

So many people view jaywalking as ‘no big deal,’ the ticketing of illegal pedestrians has been a controversy for a long time now. In fact, a recent Department of Justice report hints that offenses such as jaywalking are directly correlated to excessive force by police officers. If officers are reluctant to hand out the $56 jaywalking tickets, does that have a positive or negative impact on pedestrian safety in the city of Seattle?

There are a number of lower-level offenses that many people in the United States view as superfluous. Jaywalking, according to experts, is among the most disregarded of them all. But according to the King County Municipal court, the number of jaywalking tickets issued in the county has significantly decreased since 2008. 

“If there’s no traffic coming, go for it,” said Peter Boyle, a typical Seattle pedestrian.

Admittedly, the nonchalant attitude towards illegal street-crossing makes the argument seem relatively cut-and-dry. But statistical evidence shows that this otherwise harmless crime can actually lead to a very serious situation.

Jaywalking Tickets Lead to Trouble

According to a recent Department of Justice report, a direct connection can be made between low-level offenses, such as jaywalking, and excessive force used by law enforcement personnel.

“It is distressing to see how many of the excessive force complaints begin with minor street confrontations: over jay-walking,” writes an official from the Office of Professional Accountability, the office within the Seattle Police Department that oversees and investigates complaints about SPD misconduct.

Statistically speaking, the discovery of this trend has led to a reduction in the issuance of jaywalking tickets in king county. SPD assistant chief Mike Sanford says that the emergence of reports connecting the tickets to violence has caused a shift in attitude in the department.

“Nothing good comes of that for them,” Sanford says. “Nothing good comes from that for the community.”

‘Policing is Changing’

In regard to the shift in attitude, Sanford denies the suggestion that officers are simply ‘looking the other way.’ Rather, he believes it’s simply choosing the right battles to fight, and handing out jaywalking tickets isn’t among the top priorities.

“The landscaping of policing is changing in the world,” he added. “[We want to] see what we can do to try to enforce some of the behaviors that really are dangerous like speeding and red light running along with failure to yield.”

Do you think that the laid-back attitude toward jaywalking tickets has a positive or negative impact on pedestrian safety in the city of Seattle? Share your thoughts or experiences with us in the comment box below.

Chris Davis
Top-rated, award-winning, attorney practicing wrongful death & serious injury law in Seattle.
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