School zone safety programs
A school crosswalk with traffic signals helps regulate traffic on a busy street
This is the ﬁnal article of the simpliﬁed trafﬁc studies summaries. Information in this article was taken from the Handbook of Simpliﬁed Practices for Trafﬁc Studies found online at www.ctre. iastate.edu/pubs/trafﬁchandbook/.
In all communities, the safety of elementary school children who walk or bike to school is a major concern of parents, school ofﬁ-cials, and local transportation professionals.
For those working in transportation, school zone safety is one of the most pressing and potentially controversial issues they may encounter. Parents and teachers may demand measures that are unwarranted from an engineering and safety perspective.
Creating a well organized school zone safety program will help address these concerns. The basic steps include organizing a trafﬁc safety committee to coordinate the program
- developing a school route plan
- evaluating and conﬁguring the school site
- considering other safety elements
- distributing and maintaining the plan
Organize a trafﬁc safety committee
An effective trafﬁc safety committee includes members of the local government and school board who have the authority and the ability to get things done. Addition-al members include representatives from the schools and parent or safety groups. The role of the committee is to coordinate and review the creation and implementation of the school route plan, establish priorities, and relate to the public.
Develop a school route plan
The committee gathers information about the current student walking areas, safety crossings, school hours, and locations of particular concern. The committee may wish to solicit help from the local PTA, school personnel, or other citizen safety groups.
Next a school route map can be drafted. The map should include
- the school
- nearby roadways
- existing trafﬁc control devices
- the suggested school route for children to follow
During the route planning, the committee should use the following criteria for evalu-ating possible routes:
- Provide maximum protection to school children at minimum cost to taxpayers.
- Take advantage of existing trafﬁc control devices.
- Take special precautions when unusual conditions exist that may cause problems for school children.
Other factors inﬂuencing the route plan-ning may include the availability and quality of sidewalks, the number and age of children using the route, and the total walking distance. Distance is particularly important if a non-direct route is planned to take advantage of better sidewalks, trafﬁc controls, or other factors.
Once the planning is done, a ﬁnal map should be prepared that
- guides children and avoids hazards
- effectively uses safety features such as trafﬁc control signs and sidewalks
- minimizes the use of busy intersections
- uses roadway crossing with adequate sight distance
- provides a basis for engineering studies of school trafﬁc control devices
- indicates priorities for sidewalk construction
Evaluate and conﬁgure the school site
Once a map to the school has been created, the school site itself should be evaluated and conﬁgured for safety.
Are parking lots separate from student pick-up and drop-off areas?
Are buses and the handicapped the only ones allowed to park in the access driveway?
Are sidewalks between the school buildings and the access driveway wide enough?
Consider other safety elements
The 2003 edition of the MUTCD, Part 7, "Trafﬁc Controls for School Areas" includes important revisions for school zones. Some of the changes include newly designed crossing signs and the need for proper apparel, equipment, and training for crossing guards, especially student patrols.
Trafﬁc control. The design of trafﬁc signs should be uniform. Any non-standard signs should be removed or replaced to avoid confusion.
Road markings may supplement trafﬁc signs. They can produce results impossible with signs alone.
School crosswalks. Wherever the commit-tee may approve their placement, school crosswalks should be marked to increase visibility. Trafﬁc signals may also be added to help regulate trafﬁc.
Crossing supervision from an adult crossing guard, a police ofﬁcer, or a student patrol may be effective where younger pedestrians cross.
School bus operations. Due to their size, limited maneuvering capabilities, and the site restrictions they create, school bus operations are a major part of any school zone program.
Bus routes should maximize safety, efﬁciency, and cost effectiveness. To accomplish this, consider the following:
- school children's ages and locations
- road conditions and the safety of the route at hills, intersections, railway crossings, and other high caution locations
- available funds
- required service standards
- loading and unloading safety, both to the school children and to other motorists
Distribute and maintain the plan
A copy of the ﬁnal route plan should be posted in the school where anyone can see it. Copies should also be sent home with the children for their parents to look over and help explain.
Once the plan is in place, school authorities should make sure that students follow the appropriate routes. Widespread non-compli-ance may mean that revisions are necessary.
Review the plan annually to determine if any changes are necessary due to district changes, sidewalk construction, the instal-lation of new trafﬁc control devices, and anything else that could affect pedestrian or bike travel.