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Phoenix School Safety Program


The City of Phoenix is known for its quality products designed to educate the public on transportation safety topics. One such program was the School Safety Program, which resulted in the most significant improvement to school safety in Arizona since the inception of the 15-mph school zone in 1950. The Phoenix School Safety Program was developed by a School Safety Task Force which was created at the request of City Council after a very tragic collision involving a young student who ran into a busy street against a traffic signal, and past the out-stretched arms of a crossing guard. The Task Force was charged with evaluating safety conditions in front of all schools citywide to see what can be done to improve safety at all 400 of our schools, and more than 1,700 of our school-related crosswalks. The School Safety Task Force was made up of individuals from the Phoenix Police, Street Transportation, and Law Departments, an elementary school Principal, an Assistant Superintendent from the Paradise Valley School District, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, a volunteer engineering consultant, and a parent volunteer representing another elementary school.

School Safety Task Force Recommendations and Accomplishments:
The Task Force studied school safety at all crossings citywide for the past 12 years, brought in experts to provide input and conducted several new studies over the course of a year. This resulted in a list of 26 recommendations (see attached list) that included a combination of Engineering, Enforcement, Educational countermeasures, as well as Experimentation with new traffic control technology. In February 2001, Phoenix City Council adopted all 26 recommendations and provided funding for six new positions and several new programs to enhance school safety. One of the recommendations was to establish a two-person school safety team to work exclusively with schools on traffic safety concerns and provide improved service to school principals and transportation directors.

“Guardians of the Future”: This video was produced with funding from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety (in English and in Spanish languages), with a local news anchor as the spokesperson. This training video incorporated several new training guidelines developed by the task force, and was incorporated into the Annual School Crossing Guard Training Program presented by the Phoenix Street Transportation Department as a free service to the community. The crossing guard training videos are also loaned out to schools for use when new guards are hired, for substitute guards, or if refresher training is needed. We improved our annual school crossing guard training program and have helped individual school districts strengthen their own training programs. The City received a grant from the Governors Office of Highway Safety to purchase bright hats and brighter reflective vests for crossing guards in Phoenix.


The school safety team worked with the Automobile Club of Arizona to develop a new training pamphlet for crossing guards, “Arizona Handbook for Adult School Crossing Guards”. This handbook is applicable for Arizona conditions and traffic controls (15 mph school zones). Since some guards in Phoenix are more proficient in Spanish, we developed a Spanish language version as well. AAA Arizona plans to distribute this handbook throughout the State. Training Pamphlet
Training Pamphlets


This is a plan that is used to show parents and students the recommended walking route and crossing locations for all students living within the walking attendance boundary for elementary schools. The plan takes the decision making process out of the hands of children. The recommended plan is developed with parent volunteer input and requires the parent volunteers to review all of the walking routes to identify deficiencies for corrective action. Eleven walking plans have been developed thus far in Phoenix, and more are currently in the works.

Download PDF of Walking Plan Guidelines [63 kb]
Download Sample Image [150 kb]


School crossing safety audit

The audit process was developed in cooperation with the Washington Elementary School District as a multi-disciplinary approach to inspect and evaluate all designated crossings for a school. The Safety audit requires input from the Police, Street Transportation Department, school principal, and a representative from the school district. It is the first of its kind in the country. An audit form and procedure was developed for this process which can be used to rank school crossings to identify those most in need of improvement. Audits were completed at 173 crossings at 71 schools in Phoenix.

Download PDF of Crossing Safety Audit Procedure [93 kb]  

School Crossing Review
[94 kb]

School Crossing Safety
Audit Page 1 [114 kb]

School Crossing Safety
Audit Page 2 [111 kb]


Automated enforcement of speed limits

On October 1, 2001, Phoenix began a new enforcement program involving radar-controlled cameras mounted in specially equipped vans at school crossings and on busy streets in front of schools. The program began with two photo safety vans which each can conduct enforcement at up to three schools per day. Using information from the Phoenix Educational Youth System (PEYS) program maintained by the City Managers office, a complete record of school start and dismissal times, crossing locations and school calendars is maintained to have the most effective deployment of the police photo enforcement. In addition to photo speed enforcement at schools, photo red light enforcement also recently began in Phoenix (August 2001). Eight of the eleven red-light cameras were placed at school traffic signals as a result of the School Safety Program effort. camera-equipped van
Camera-equipped Van


Another program approved and funded by City Council was the installation of pavement stencils on streets and the approach to schools, which is a form of ‘horizontal signing’ in the direct path of the motorist. Installation began in May 2001, and so far 577 SCHOOL markings have been painted on arterial streets, and are continuing for all schools and school crossings on higher classification streets. stenciling of School
Pavement Stenciling


What started as an experiment using signs at 20 schools was quickly adopted across the entire city within a year, and all 1,600 school warning signs were converted to the brighter and more eye-catching fluorescent yellow-green signs. In addition, reflective FYG post covers with the word ‘SCHOOL’ stenciled on it are used with all school signs placed along arterial or collector streets. School warning sign
School Warning


Another experiment that is a part of the school safety program includes an in-pavement crosswalk flashing lights (Flashing Crosswalk) on 40th Street and Danbury for Paradise Valley High School. The flashers are activated by ‘talking’ pushbuttons, which provide a verbal message to students urging them to “use caution while crossing the street,” and warning that “cars may not stop”. Two different driver feedback speed monitors were installed at two different school crossings to evaluate their effectiveness on driver speeds. One speed monitor (made by 3M) was installed on 19th Ave at Orangewood, which is a major school crossing at a busy street. The speed monitor is turned on and off by the crossing guard so that it is only active during the school day. If a driver exceeds the established school speed, it displays the message ‘SLOW NOW’. The other active speed monitor (Stalker Speedboard) shown in Figure 2 also displays approaching driver speeds, but provides a bright LED flash to speeding motorists to get their attention. This mimics the flash from the photo speed van. In addition, school reduced speed zones, some in combination with overhead warning signs, are being tested at three Phoenix schools.
Speed Monitor


The test with the driver feedback signs was so effective that a special project was built for Sunnyslope High School combining a driver speed monitor and a pedestrian safety refuge island on Dunlap Avenue. The crosswalk featured a European style staggered crosswalk with fencing in the safety island, forcing two separate pedestrian crossings for students. While on the safety island, the fencing forced pedestrians to look towards oncoming traffic before completing their crossing. The project also included the SCHOOL pavement stencils and the bright FYG warning signs.
Staggered Crosswalks


The School Safety Staff developed a set of guidelines for schools to implement inside their parking lots to minimize the congestion and confusion that often accompanies school arrival and dismissal. The school safety staff is available to review the existing drop-off conditions and assist schools in implementing improved procedures to improve safety inside school parking lots. This has had an added benefit of eliminating most of the traffic congestion that has spilled out onto the street in front of the school during the start and end of the school day.

Download PDF of Drop off/Pick up Guidelines [59 kb]
students waiting by
Kids being picked up


In October 2001 all school principals and district administrators were invited to a meeting with Phoenix police and traffic officials to discuss the vital concern of traffic safety at schools. This was an opportunity to educate the school officials on the need to provide better training to the adult crossing guards and students and allowed us to show them the new programs Phoenix has for school officials. The attached booklet was developed for the School Summit Meeting, which was provided free to school administrations and transportation officials. The School Safety Summit Meeting Booklet provided a listing of the Task Force recommendations, safety brochures, and the complete presentations given at the meeting. In addition to having City staff involved in this meeting, the Director of the Governors Office of Highway Safety (Alberto Gutier) and representatives from AAA Arizona were in attendance to help promote the new school safety program. This was the first opportunity for the school administrators to see the photo speed vans, which were on display at the summit meeting.
Summit Meeting


The Phoenix School Safety Program has been presented at the Annual Transportation Research Board Meeting in Washington, DC, Purdue University Road School, the Arizona Section ITE/IMSA Spring Conference, and the ITE Intermountain Section in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The School Safety Program effectively turned ‘lemons’ into ‘lemonade’ and resulted in an extremely beneficial program to help the 400 schools in Phoenix and thousands of Phoenix school children. While some of the elements of the program were not new or unique, the entire package of recommendations approved by Council most certainly were innovative and original and is helping to solve a complex social problem of traffic safety at schools.

Additional Information
If you have any questions, please contact the City of Phoenix Street Transportation Department:

Jenny Grote: Phone: 602-262-7597 Email:
Mike Cynecki: Phone: 602-272-7217 Email:
Brandon Forrey: Phone 602-495-0241 Email: