Administrators, teachers, support staff, and students aren’t the only Texans going back to school this time of year. As summer winds down, more than 6,000 crossing guards are reporting to their posts on street corners across the state.
For commuters, a crossing guard’s bright smile and Texas-sized “good morning” wave can make rush hour traffic bearable, if not downright pleasant. That’s what 78-year-old retiree Richard Tuttle has done in Austin’s Mendez Middle School community for 15 years.
Of course, crossing guards are more than friendly faces. For parents, they are dependable adults trained to protect children’s safety. So how do guards protect their own safety on the job?
All crossing guards must complete an approved traffic direction training program as defined by the state’s basic peace officer course curriculum. During their training, guards will learn specific safety procedures that apply to their municipality or district. Schools can reinforce that training by sharing these four best practices with crossing guards.
1. Follow street-crossing best practices
Motorists spent the summer enjoying light traffic and no school zone speed limits. Some might need time to adjust to the reality of back-to-school driving.
Remember these street-crossing best practices year-round, especially during the first few weeks on the job:
- Avoid distractions such as eating, reading, and listening to music.
- Wait for natural traffic breaks before crossing children if possible. If you need to temporarily stop traffic, you should be the first person into and out of the street.
- Make eye contact with lead drivers before you step into the street.
- Give vehicles more time to stop during wet and icy conditions. Similarly, remember that larger vehicles require longer distances to stop safely.
- After you cross a group of children, stand on the curb, not the street, and wait for the next group.
2. Make sure you are seen and heard
On a foggy, rainy New Jersey morning, an 81-year-old crossing guard died after being struck by an SUV. The driver reported that by the time he saw the victim, who was not wearing a high-visibility vest, it was too late to stop.
This tragedy underscores the importance of ensuring you have the equipment you need to be seen and heard, including:
- High-visibility traffic safety vest, gloves, traffic cones, and raincoat. Do not use an umbrella. It could block your vision.
- “STOP” paddle if your municipality or district requires it
- Sunscreen and hat
- Comfortable shoes with non-slip soles
- Warm clothes in cold weather. Remember to wear high-visibility vests over other clothes.
- Walkie talkie for emergencies
If your equipment is lost or stolen, notify your supervisor immediately
3. Report unsafe conditions
So far, we’ve focused on behaviors that help protect crossing guards and students. Don’t forget about hazardous conditions that contribute to injuries.
If you observe any of these hazards at your post, notify your supervisor:
- Crosswalks with potholes, large cracks, uneven surfaces, and other damage
- Inadequate lighting, especially at daybreak and dusk
- Damaged or missing traffic control devices such as stop signs, stop lights, speed limit signs, and pedestrian walk lights
- Overgrowth of trees, shrubs, or other plants that blocks signs, school zone flashers, or sidewalks
- Aggressive animals
4. Know what to do during an emergency
Last year, the state recorded a reportable crash every 58 seconds. Nearly 1,100 of those crashes happened in school zones, according to the Texas Department of Transportation.
During an emergency, you should stay calm and know exactly how to respond:
- Do not move the victim. If necessary, use a vehicle to block the victim from traffic.
- Stop escorting children across the street immediately. Assemble them in a group off the street and wait for a police officer to direct you.
- Ask two drivers to call 911.
- Notify your supervisor as soon as possible.
Take advantage of crossing guard online safety training
Fully-funded members of the TASB Risk Management Fund Workers’ Compensation program benefit from SafeSchools online training, including a Crossing Guard Safety module at a reduced cost and 11 handpicked courses at no additional cost. And as always, we encourage members who have questions about safety issues to contact their risk solutions consultant.