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Crossing guards benefit from key solution

Oct 31, 2016 10:41AM ● By Jet Burnham

The intersection at 9000 South and 2200 West accommodates two schools—Hawthorn Academy to the south and Westvale Elementary to the north. (Jet Burnham/City Journals)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

West Jordan, Utah - Crossing guards Trudy Smith and Heather Childs are using a new tool to help students from two West Jordan schools safely cross the street each day. The key, which was innovated in Utah, is inserted into the crosswalk box and adds 15 extra seconds to the timer.

Engineers at the Utah Department of Transportation developed the key specifically for crossing guards working at difficult crosswalks. 

“The key gives the crossing guards ability in real time to add the necessary time to walk the kids and themselves across the intersection,” said John Gleason, UDOT public information officer for . 

Before, crossing time was a rushed 30 seconds. The extra time is beneficial at the intersection of 9000 South and 2200 West, which  has six car lanes and a bike lane. Crossing guards have struggled to get kids across and then get back to the sidewalk in time to aid students walking the other direction.

Because it only affects peak crossing times, the extra 15 seconds does not delay traffic throughout the day. Traffic engineers have monitored traffic and have seen no additional back-ups for morning east-bound drivers, according to Gleason. Childs and Smith don’t use the key  in the morning hours. Students’ arrival times are staggered and fewer students walk to school in the mornings, making it unnecessary to adjust crossing times. However, from 3 to 3:45 p.m. nearly 200 students from Hawthorn Academy and Westvale Elementary cross the intersection. 

Most parents and drivers haven’t noticed a difference since the key was put into use mid-September. 

“It’s just a big deal to us,” said Smith.  

Gleason says UDOT is pleased with the results. 

“The goal is to keep people safe and to keep traffic moving,” he said.

The key has provided this balance. 

Drivers could actually see a benefit to the added time, according to Lisa Johnson, who lives just east of 2200 West.

 “The light is too short,” Johnson said, adding that she knows she’ll have more time to get through the intersection when the key is in use weekday afternoons.

Crossing guards have noticed the added time also relieves traffic exiting Hawthorn Academy. 

“The turn lane used to be backed up to the school,” said Childs, who has been working at the intersection for eight years. With the extra time, the left-hand turn lane on 2200 West can clear out.

Opponents of the added time think children should learn to cross more quickly. 

“If the kids run, they are more likely to trip and fall,” said Smith, who doesn’t believe that rushing students is a safe practice.

The key solution came as a result of frustrated crossing guard Richard Hirschi of La Verkin, Utah. Several months ago, he contacted UDOT to ask for more than the 10–18 seconds he had available to get La Verkin Elementary students safely across Highway 9. 

“It’s a major highway, and it’s just flooded with cars,” said Hirschi. 

Costing only $20 and requiring a simple 30-minute installation, “[the key] is a minimal investment with a big pay-off in safety,” said Gleason. “Engineers have talked to crossing guards, and, hands down, the response has been very positive.” 

To improve safety even more, crossing guards ask drivers to follow intersection safety rules. Right-hand turners should not proceed until the crossing guard arrives safely back to the corner. They also ask drivers to remember to slow down in school zones.

 The key is in use at six crosswalks throughout Utah. Crossing guards or school officials interested in implementing the key in their school zones can contact traffic operations engineers at  [email protected].