Why Do People “Jaywalk”?

The most common complaint/reason/excuse given to explain why those walking our roadways are killed and injured is that these folks are walking “outside the crosswalk.” We very strongly tend to stop looking for explanation when it is discovered that “jaywalking” is involved. We’re done. Reason revealed; end of discussion.

This abrupt halt to research and understanding extends to police investigations. Jaywalking = “pedestrian error” universally as primary “apparent contributory factor” on crash reports except in cases of driver impairment (where it is still always a strong secondary contributory factor) or the driver flees the scene. Drivers hitting jaywalkers who aren’t impaired and don’t flee have the equivalent of a “get out of jail free” card.

What is never asked and answered in the great preponderance of such cases is exactly why a person would risk crossing the street outside of a crosswalk. The unspoken and unresearched conclusion is that the person must be crazy, impaired, stupid, or some combination of the three.  Research, as it were, stops at that point, even in the legal/law enforcement sense.

I’m doing a bit of research into a person who was killed crossing Coors Boulevard just north of Las Estancias SW on October 17th. It’s a corridor BB has mentioned several times previously, one in which a newish Walmart has rather suddenly been surrounded by shops, restaurants, a cineplex, and hospital service facilities. Here’s a bird’s eye of the location:

coors big view with bus stops
Southbound bus stops arrowed in red

In this case, the deceased walked east to west across Coors Boulevard, just north of Las Estancias. Here’s a closer look at that section of the above:

coors closer with LE bus stop
This satellite view being slightly dated, more establishments have filled in more of the empty lots shown here

Debris found by investigators at the scene included french fries and other food items indicating the deceased went to one of the now many fast-food places on the east side of Coors, perhaps the Whataburger not identified in the first bird’s eye above north of Dion’s.

Why would this person walk east to west across busy Coors? There’s nothing but pasture and open space on the west side of that frantic road. Nothing but two bus stops to catch southbound Route 155 taking riders down Coors and into Valley Gardens subdivision off Gun Club SW two or three miles away. We don’t know if the deceased was trying to catch a southbound bus. That gets to an obvious, yet very important dilemma in investigating jaywalking deaths. You can’t interview a dead person.

Yet, given the absence of other reasons to get to the west side of Coors at/near Las Estancias, and given the highly uncomfortable surrounding awaiting anyone walking southbound on Coors:

las estancias southbound with bus stop
(Bus stop framed in blue) Note lack of east-west crosswalk here at Las Estancias. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that the light isn’t in operation here. This is still the case some 2-3 years after the light was installed. It is also perhaps relevant to add that since this Google Streetview shot was taken the southbound light mast has been knocked down by a speeding driver and is in process of repair. 
route 155 bus stop south of las estancias
These screenshots don’t adequately capture how undesirable it is to walk along this stretch of Coors. Imagine vehicles sweeping by at 45 (posted) to 55-60 (often) mph near this forlorn and highly dangerous bus stop. Note also the barbed-wire fence and narrow shoulder.

we either have someone trying to catch a southbound 155 or are left with the “crazy jaywalker” theory. The investigatory report does mention two perhaps meaningful facts in regard to the latter. The deceased had a hospital band on their wrist and “various forms of intravenous drug paraphernalia” in their possession. The completed report does not tell us anything more in that regard. And no toxicology testing was done on the deceased. So we only have those remarks in the report.

What we also have, and very much continue to have, is the following:

  1. ABQ Ride Route 155 still has southbound bus stops across Coors from all these new establishments;
  2. These stops have not been moved to the east side of Coors where the establishments are, thus inducing those interested in catching the southbound bus to cross Coors;
  3. Taking the spot near the walking fatality, Las Estancias SW, the distance to an official crosswalk is ~3,000 feet to Rio Bravo Blvd. and ~2,000 feet to Gun Club SW;
  4. So…those frequenting these establishments on the east side of Coors and wishing to catch the southbound 155 have three choices: Walk thousands of feet to the crosswalk at Rio Bravo, cross at the crosswalk, and largely retrace their steps back thousands of feet back south to the bus stop; walk 2,000 feet or more to Gun Club and Coors; or,
  5. *Cross Coors where they are (Dion’s, Whataburger, etc.).

As long as we too quickly stop looking, researching, and even thinking about why people jaywalk to their deaths, we will accomplish nothing in reversing the local/nationwide spike in pedestrian fatalities. Interestingly, a longer look might also reveal factors and blame we are not comfortable in facing as taxpayers and public policy makers.

Simply blaming jaywalkers is comfortable. And easy. And saves us lots of money. No wonder we almost always tend to stop looking beyond that.




*It’s also necessary to consider other factors, such as appearance of a southbound 155 bus approaching, especially given that this bus only comes once every 30 minutes. Rational or no, such considerations are omnipresent in the mind of transit users, particularly when bus service is spread thinly.



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