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that the media is reporting more on fatalities and/ or injuries involving crossing guards compared to students who walk to school, though more recently we are seeing a slight increase in student mishaps. By nature, a crossing guard is a difficult job to


fill. Add to that today’s budget cutbacks, po- lice re-assignments and crossing-guard training requirements and, as a result, uniform monies have substantially decreased or have simply have been removed completely. For example, one Pennsylvania school district’s $11.3 million budget cut resulted in the elimination of six of the area's eight school crossing guards. A major change has occurred: Crossing guards

have evolved from simply ushering students across a street to performing basic traffic police duties. I’m not convinced we have incorporated these safety concerns, and I see much-needed improvement in this area. I have always believed that, to assess a situation, one must speak directly with the person- nel who are actually performing the job. One should also observe firsthand the location of any incident. One crossing guard assigned directly in front

of a school’s main entrance told me once that dealing with the school traffic every day for him is like Black Friday at the mall during the holiday shopping season. Most crossing guards will tell you of the large number of parents and students they see driving to school who are always talking on cellphones or texting, which we all know is a driving distraction that can result in tragic consequences. I can attest to this myself, as a few years back I experienced a frightening near-miss accident that involved a crossing guard. I was driving on a three-lane, one-way street with a posted speed limit of 30 mph when the crossing guard darted out into traffic against a green light while holding the hand of a child, who in turn was holding the hand of another child. Te crossing guard’s stop paddle was extended horizontally as he entered the roadway looking to his left at the students. When I saw them, the driver in front of me and I managed to come to an abrupt stop just in time. It

38 School Transportation News May 2013

oday, the countless number of school lo- cations that incorporate heavy vehicular traffic patterns are much infrequently referred to as danger zones. I have found


was scary. In another flicker of a second or less, we would have hit them. Tis incident occurred about 10 years ago, and it has stuck with me ever since. I remember the crossing guard was equipped with a worn, almost beat-up-looking reflective vest. Shortly after the incident, I contacted the town’s police chief. He informed me that the department had to re-deploy their police officers from traffic du- ties to other assignments and, therefore, had to hire crossing guards. Te police chief said it had been difficult to attract and retain qualified personnel as crossing guards because of the low pay. Te next time I drove by the same school, a

different crossing guard was on duty, which makes me believe that the police chief took some corrective action. Or, so I hope. Te days of the little red schoolhouse at the end

of town with the single crossing guard performing his or her duties are becoming a thing of the past. Some still exist, but today the roads in and around our schools have been transformed into busy traffic zones with buses, cars and pedestrians. As a result, accidents are frequent. From 1993 to 2008, 120 crossing guards died on the job nationwide, according to the most recent figures by the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics (see sidebar). Today, in many cases, it is a crossing guard, not a

traffic officer from a local law enforcement agency, who is directing traffic in these busy zones. School crossing guards should not direct traffic unless spe- cifically trained as a traffic control officer. For those interested in training resources, a simple Google search will result in numerous find- ings, but one good resource to begin with is “Adult School Crossing Guard Guidelines” prepared by the National Center for Safe Routes to School and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center. Both groups are part of the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, with funding from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

Joe Scesny is a bus safety consultant and retired supervising motor vehicle inspector with the New York State Department of Transportation. He can be reached at


STUDENTS • Feb. 28, 2013: A

New York City school crossing guard goes AWOL while a 6-year- old student is fatally struck at her assigned post by a tractor-trailer. • Nov. 15, 2012: A

59-year-old North Carolina school crossing guard is killed while directing traffic outside a school.

• Oct. 25, 2005: An

81-year-old female school crossing guard was struck by a large SUV after stepping onto the street to stop traffic. She died of her injuries a few hours later. • According to the Chicago Tribune, about 1,700 school-age children from 2007 to 2011 were struck by vehicles in Chicago while the students were within one block of a school.

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