What would you call a person who crosses the road dangerously ignoring the traffic rules?


He is a jaywalker.


I had been wondering what word to use for such a person when I came across the word in my reading some time ago. I looked it up and found it was a fun word though the person’s behaviour should not be tolerated.


It is clear that JAYWALKER is a compound, comprising “JAY” and “WALKER”. I bet everybody knows what a WALKER is. So the meaning of the compound lies heavily in JAY. JAY is the name of a group of birds, of which crows and magpies are two common members. These birds share some common characteristics—they are noisy, brightly coloured and known for being smart. They cry fearlessly at any intruder that trespasses upon their territory.


What does JAYWALKER have to do with the bird? A lot. For its noisiness, people associate it with people who are talkative and giving no attention to others. When JAYWALKER is used, the word is vivid in that it calls up such an image: a pedestrian is crossing the road anywhere anytime he pleases, ignoring the traffic and the traffic lights. A jaywalker certainly is not chattering but he is heedless indeed, just like JAY the person, giving no attention to others. He is careless. So you see how the meaning gradually moves from JAY the bird to JAY the person, and on to JAYWALKER.


Jaywalking is a common scene in China, isn’t it?


A jaywalker poses danger to others as well as to himself. A large number of traffic accidents are a result of jaywalking. We are supposed to obey traffic rules on the road. We are to cross the road where it is allowed, usually at a place marked out as a crossing. At some crossings, we have to cross when the green light is on. A red light means we have to wait. But do we?


A piece of news caught my eye the other day. It reported a peculiar discovery. In a metropolitan city of China, a surveillance cam recorded at a crossing how people crossed the street. It turned out that over 90 percent of those who crossed the road were jaywalkers. Why?


The report pointed the finger at the jaywalkers. Of course it is reasonable. They violated the rule of safe crossing. On second thoughts, however, some drivers are to blame, too. Their behaviour encourages jaywalking.


Pedestrians have the right of way at a crosswalk. Drivers are expected to slow down when they are approaching a crosswalk, for the pedestrians to cross safely. But do they? Many drivers do not. Near my home, I have to walk across a crosswalk several times daily to and from work. My experience tells me that the majority of drivers are jaydrivers (this word is my coinage). Instead of slowing down for me to cross, they even speed up, forcing me to give way to them!


The year before last, one of the school staff was knocked down on the crosswalk and he got one of his legs amputated. At the end of last year, a woman was killed near the crosswalk by a hit-and-run driver.


Of course drivers should stop if there is a red light. I believe most drivers do. But still some drivers ignore whatever light there is ahead. These drivers should know that they will pay a high price for their behaviour one day.


Another reason behind jaywalking is very Chinese. If you found that nobody else around you was following the rule, would you go with the flow or would you be different? I know many people jaywalk because everybody else is doing it. So you would look dumb if you didn’t do it!!!


However, the best policy, in my view, is to follow the rule and stop jaywalking no matter what others might be doing. If you are in the right, assert yourself and do it.


Safe walking!


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