School Zone Improvements
A variety of roadway and other improvements may be used to enhance the safe mobility of children in school zones. The countermeasures pertinent to children walking to school also generally apply to children bicycling to school.
Sidewalks or separated walkways and paths are ingredients for a safe trip from home to school on foot or by bike. Children can also be taught safe riding techniques that will enable them to ride on low-volume neighborhood streets. Speeds of motor vehicles also need to be controlled on these streets. Signs and marking treatments to control motor vehicle speeds in and around schools include the school advance warning sign (which can be fluorescent yellow/green), school speed zone and flashing speed zone signs, flashing yellow warning signals, and in-street "Yield to Peds" signs (generally dropped into a holder in the street). Police enforcement in school zones may be needed in situations where drivers are speeding or not yielding to children in crosswalks. Sometimes localities double the fines for speeding in school zones.
Other helpful measures include parking prohibitions near intersections and crosswalks near schools. Marked crosswalks can help guide children to the best routes to school. Sometimes these crosswalks have additional pedestrian crossing signs mounted at the side of the street as well as overhead. Flashing beacons may also be used. School administrators and parent-teacher organizations need to educate students and parents about school safety and access to and from school. Education, enforcement, and well-designed roads must all be in place to encourage motorists to drive appropriately. Safe Routes to School Communities are using Safe Routes to School (SR2S) programs to work toward making walking and bicycling safe and appealing ways for children to get to school. A new course developed by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC) for FHWA is designed to help communities and states create sound programs that are based on community conditions, best practices and responsible use of resources. The course concludes with participants developing an action plan. The course is supported through a partnership of funding from the Federal Highway Administration, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Environmental Protection Agency. (See http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/sr2s/ for more.)
The use of well-trained adult crossing guards has been found to be one of the most effective measures for assisting children, whether bicyclists or walkers, in crossing streets safely. Adult crossing guards require training and monitoring and should be equipped with a bright and reflective safety vest and a STOP paddle. Florida has a state-level crossing guard program. The Florida School Crossing Guard Training Guidelines, produced by the Florida DOT and administered by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, are available at http://www.dot.state.fl.us/Safety/ped_bike/training/ped_bike_training.htm.
One of the biggest safety hazards around schools is parents or caretakers dropping off and picking up their children. There are two immediate solutions: (1) there needs to be a clearly marked area where parents are permitted to drop off and pick up their children, and (2) drop-off/pick-up regulations must be provided to parents on the first day of school. Drop-off areas must be located away from where children on foot or bicycle cross streets or access the school. Parent drop-off zones must also be separated from bus drop-off zones. If parents can be trained to do it right at the start of the school year, they are likely to continue good behavior throughout the year.
For a longer-term solution, it is preferable to create an environment where children can walk or bicycle safely to school, provided they live within a suitable distance. One concept that has been successful in some communities is the concept of a "walking bus," where an adult(s) accompanies children to school, starting at one location and picking children up along the way. Soon, a fairly sizeable group of children are walking in a regular formation, two by two, under the supervision of responsible adults, who are mindful of street crossings. Parents take turns accompanying the "walking school bus" in ways that fit their schedules.
- Provide enhanced safety around schools.
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- Safety must be a combined effort between local traffic officials, police, school officials, parents, and students.
- Care must be taken to make sure students understand the various signs and markings and not be lulled into a false sense of security.
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Costs would depend on the school zone treatment selected. For example, if signs were chosen, costs might include $50 to $150 per sign plus installation costs. Adult crossing guards may cost around $10,000 each per year.
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