Every school day school crossing guards are hard at work making sure children get to and from school safely. While we depend on crossing guards to ensure the safety of our children, according to the Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund of New Jersey, the position of school crossing guard has become one of the more dangerous occupations in municipal government. The insurance fund, which represents more than 60 percent of New Jersey’s municipalities, reported a 65% increase in crashes involving crossing guards between 1996 and 2006[i]. New Jersey has been working on a solution that might help change this.

 New Research

To address crossing guard safety, NJDOT and the New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center have conducted research on school crossing guard training and work conditions in New Jersey as well as current best practices in use throughout the country. The results of this research are presented in a research report titled “More Than Crossing Streets” which is now available on the NJ SRTS Resource Center Crossing Guard webpage. The report includes results of interviews with crossing guard supervisors across the state looking at current hiring, training, assessment and supervision standards and procedures; and discussions with crossing guard focus groups that relate the daily experiences of school crossing guards.

Our focus group research has shown that crossing guards love their jobs, but speak of the dangers they face each day, from distracted drivers and inattentive pedestrians, to hazardous crosswalk conditions. Crossing guards told us that parents are some of the worst offenders. One guard noted that “parents that are late and are rushing kids to school and getting themselves to work are just accidents waiting to happen.” She noted that “you have to watch the people dropping kids off; you have to watch the crosswalk. They [the drivers] are looking only at their own kids and then they pull away. They are not paying attention. Then you have the ones going by at 50 mph on a cell phone.”   Another crossing guard noted that even teachers and other school staff can be part of the problem.  When asked what could be done to make her job easier, this guard responded “can we make the suggestion to the teachers, when they pull out of the driveway when they’re done with work, that they not be on their cell phones in front of the kids?”

The research has revealed gaps in the preparation of crossing guards for successful job performance and suggests areas for improvement, not only in training and supervision, but also in the physical conditions surrounding crossing guard posts. The report concludes that a uniform statewide school crossing guard training program, increased awareness within communities of school zone hazards, and the promotion of design improvements within school zones will contribute to a safer experience for crossing guards and child pedestrians.

New Model Policy

To start New Jersey along this path, the New Jersey Safe Routes to School Resource Center has developed a Model Municipal Crossing Guard Policy to provide traffic safety officers in police departments throughout the state with specific guidance related to hiring, training, and supervising school crossing guards. The policy is now available on the NJ SRTS Resource Center Crossing Guard webpage.

The policy can be downloaded as a template to be adapted to the needs of any community and altered to provide consistency with other municipal policies. The intent of the policy is to clarify the role of school crossing guards and to encourage consistent supervision to improve job performance and safety.

New Training Manual Coming Soon

Next in the works is a School Crossing Guard Training Manual that will provide guidance for consistent instruction and serve as a resource for practicing crossing guards. A structured training and retraining program will enable trainers and crossing guards to perform their duties more effectively and safely. Other resources coming soon include a performance assessment tool, a crossing guard post review tool, tip sheets, and an image library for use in training. With so many students depending on our crossing guards each day, it is important that crossing guards and their supervisors have the resources and tools they need to stay safe while they get our children to school.

 


  1. [i] Municipal Excess Liability Joint Insurance Fund of New Jersey. (n.d.). Street Smart is Street Safe A Program to Protect Children and School Crossing Guards. Retrieved September 2011, from http://www.njmel.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=114&Itemid=100055