Identifying the Locations Where Adult School Crossing Guards are Needed

No absolute national criteria exist for identifying which street crossings in a community require an adult school crossing guard. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) provides some general federal guidance on how to determine the need for a guard at a particular location. Some states and local governments provide further guidance or recommendations, but the conditions under which a guard is assigned to a particular location vary around the country. The local committee decides the selection criteria by which adult school crossing guards are assigned to crossings. Location decisions reflect relevant federal, state and local policies and funding issues, and are tailored to the individual conditions and needs of a community.

The local committee identifies locations for guards by establishing criteria and gathering information to help them determine the need. Adult school crossing guards should be assigned to school crossings only after the need is established. Consistently applied local criteria allow a community to provide guard service where schools need them the most. No set of guidelines, however, can cover all the unique conditions that may exist. There are times when traffic engineering judgment is needed to determine when and where an adult school crossing guard should be used.

Information to consider when identifying guard placement includes:

The age of the students who are crossing.

Generally, younger children need more assistance than older children because they have a more difficult time judging the speed and distance of approaching vehicles and may be tempted to cross during an unsafe gap.

The width of the street and the number of lanes of traffic students must cross.

Wide streets with multiple lanes of traffic typically require the use of two or more adult school crossing guards.

The sight distance at the crossing.

These conditions are measured from the student's and driver's perspectives and for actual vehicle operating speeds. Sight distance can be affected by temporary obstructions, such as parked vehicles and piled snow near the crossing.

Safe gaps in traffic.

Are the gaps long enough and frequent enough to allow safe crossing opportunities? The ITE "School Trip Safety Program Guidelines" (See Resources) states that on the average, at least one adequate gap should occur each minute to allow for children to cross without undue delay or risk. However, other factors, such as volume of child pedestrians or pedestrian groups should also be considered when determining the need for adult school crossing guards or other traffic control. If traffic volumes during crossing hours do not correspond to enough safe gaps, some method to interrupt traffic should be considered, such as a crossing guard or traffic signal.

Presence of traffic control devices, including traffic signals, signs and pavement.

If present, are the traffic controls sufficient? For example, a signalized intersection at a school crossing location should always have WALK/DON'T WALK signals, and a pedestrian push button may also be appropriate. Guards and students should be properly trained on traffic signals relative to safe street crossings.

The speed of vehicles at the crossing.

Vehicles that travel faster require greater stopping distances, and younger children have more difficulty than adults judging the speed of a fast-approaching vehicle.

Volumes of traffic and pedestrians.

Local transportation planning or engineering departments can provide or help collect these data. Vehicle counts may be readily available, but pedestrian counts will likely need to be made during this process. The number of students currently using pedestrian facilities as well as the projected pedestrian demand based on school demographics should be determined.

The attendance boundary and walk zone for each school.

The distances that walk zones extend from schools as well as policies regarding the provision of bus service differ among states and communities. Both can impact the number of children walking to school and the routes they take.

The distance the crossing is from a school and the type of adjacent land use.

A crossing in close proximity to a school within a residential neighborhood may attract more student pedestrians than, for example, a crossing located further from a school surrounded by non-residential land uses.

Crash history of the crossing.

The number, type and time of day that each crash occurs at a specific location should be recorded and analyzed.

California Criteria for the Placement of Adult School Crossing Guards

The State of California provides criteria for the placement of adult school crossing guards in the MUTCD 2014, California Supplement. Adult school crossing guards normally are assigned where at least 40 school pedestrians over the course of two hours each day cross a public highway on the way to or from school. Guards also should be considered when special situations make it necessary to assist elementary school pedestrians in crossing the street.

In some cases, a change in the school crossing location is underway, but prevailing conditions require crossing supervision until the change is completed, so a guard should be considered. Additional criteria are provided for specific situations, including uncontrolled crossings, stop sign-controlled crossings and traffic signal-controlled crossings. The criteria are based on vehicular traffic volume, vehicle speed and the number of vehicular turning movements.

Arizona Requirements for the Placement of Adult School Crossing Guards

Arizona State Law (ARS Section 28-797-D) mandates an adult school crossing guard at a yellow 15 mph School crosswalk if the school crosswalk is not adjacent to the school site. These guards are employed by the school district. Adult school crossing guards are recommended, but not required, by state law at 15 mph school zone crossings that are adjacent to the school site. These guards may be either employed by the school district or be volunteers, who have been trained and approved by the school district. (Traffic Safety for School Areas Guidelines, ADOT)

The City of Phoenix requires adult school crossing guards for elementary school crossings on busy collector streets and arterial streets. In some cases, two guards may be recommended. At white-painted crosswalks and signalized crossings, guards can be recommended using a method based on observation and engineering judgment using specific criteria such as street classification and the age of students.