Identifying Unsafe Behaviors

Enforcement programs start with identification of the unsafe behaviors of drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists around the school. Then appropriate strategies for improving these behaviors can be selected. There are many ways to identify unsafe behaviors: an observation of student arrival and departure from school is a good way to start. Speed measurements and examination of recent crash reports near the school provides additional information. Look for the common unsafe behaviors listed below when observing traffic around a school.

Driver Behaviors

Unsafe motorist behaviors occur both on the route to the school and on the school campus.

Unsafe driver behaviors on the streets around the school include:

  • Speeding through residential streets and school zones (Speed is directly related to crash frequency and severity. See chart below.),
  • Failing to yield to students walking or bicycling, especially in crosswalks (The law requires motorists to stop for pedestrians in crosswalks – it’s a law that is often ignored.),
  • Running red lights or stop signs,
  • Passing stopped school buses, and
  • Parking or stopping in crosswalks.

Speed Matters

Some drivers don’t think about the risks they create. A driver may not think going 10 mph over the speed limit will be noticeably less safe, but just a 10 mph difference in speed can be critical to whether a pedestrian lives or dies when struck by a car. This is especially true for children and older pedestrians. At 20 mph, a pedestrian has about a 5 percent chance of dying if he is hit by a car. At 30 mph, the chance of dying increases to roughly 45 percent. If a pedestrian is hit by a motor vehicle traveling 40 mph, the risk of dying increases to 85 percent.[1]

Frequently speeding problems near schools are related to the school itself. Often the parents and staff from the school are the speeders.[2]

Unsafe driver behaviors on the school campus typically involve student drop off or pick up. These include:

  • Illegal parking,
  • Cars stopping in a bus zone,
  • Dropping off students in the street rather than in the appropriate location adjacent to the curb,
  • Drivers letting students walk between parked cars and busses, and
  • Violating school drop-off and pick-up procedures.

Pedestrian and Bicyclist Behaviors

Another critical component of enforcement activities is making sure that children and other pedestrians and bicyclists know and follow the safety rules. Efforts should focus on students’ behavior on the route to school in order to minimize the risks that student pedestrians and bicyclists may encounter.

Unsafe pedestrian behaviors include:

  • Not following the directions of the crossing guard or traffic signals
  • Not looking left, right and left again before crossing the street
  • Crossing a street at an undesirable location
  • Darting out between parked cars
  • Wearing dark clothes when there is poor lighting

Unsafe bicyclist behaviors include:

  • Riding into traffic without looking left, right and left again
  • Riding against traffic instead of with the traffic flow
  • Turning left without looking and signaling
  • Not obeying traffic signs and signals
  • Riding out from driveway or between parked cars
  • Not wearing bike helmet
  • Not being visible at night when riding in road