Concerns arise about child safety in school zone crossings

Schoolboy waiting for the opportunity to move to the other side of the street | Photo by djedzura, Getty Images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Two recent reports of children being struck by a vehicle while crossing an intersection near Little Valley Elementary School in the past month are fueling concerns in the community over pedestrian safety.

Both incidents involved children crossing in the intersection of South Little Valley Road and East Crimson Ridge Drive several blocks from the elementary school.

Read more: 6-year-old struck in crosswalk on way to school | 5-year-old on bike collides with vehicle near Little Valley Elementary; crossing guard criteria

Map shows a marked crosswalk on Little Valley Road in green and an unmarked crosswalk on South 2350 East marked in red. The yellow mark indicates area where two children were hit while crossing an intersection with a marked crosswalk, St. George, Utah, March 24, 2017 | Image courtesy of St. George Police Sgt. Craig Harding, St. George News

For children ages 5 to 19, being hit by a car is the fifth leading cause of injury-related death in the U.S., according to Safe Kids Worldwide, with teenagers at an even greater risk with a death rate twice that of younger children.

Teaching children how to cross the street correctly and safely can save lives.

Anytime accidents with pedestrians occur, especially if school-age children are involved, significant emotional responses and public indignation typically follow.

Parents and civic leaders are persistent in their demands for more signs, markings and signals in and around schools and demands often rise after such accidents, Sgt. Craig Harding, traffic supervisor with the St. George Police Department, said.

“If all the requests were met, there would have to be many more adult school crossing guards,” Harding said, “as well as more traffic signals, signs and markings in various parts of the city.”

These requests, however, are not always in line with sound traffic engineering, he added. Studies show that putting more controls in place can even lessen the respect for the devices that are already in place.

Crosswalk safety

Crosswalks play a vital role in pedestrian safety. There are marked crosswalks, such as the one near Little Valley Elementary, but sometimes a crosswalk is not as clearly defined. Information provided in the Utah Traffic Code – Chapter 41 can help clarify and explain the role of crosswalks.

In Utah, vehicles approaching a stop or yield sign must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians within an adjacent crosswalk. Pedestrians must yield the right-of-way to vehicles when crossing outside of a marked crosswalk or an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection

Utah law defines “crosswalk” as the part of the roadway that extends “from the sidewalk across to the other side of the road, or from the curb to the other side of the road,” or where markings are displayed in the roadway at intersections. More information about Utah’s traffic code governing motor vehicles, pedestrians and traffic control devices can be found on the state’s legislative website here.

The traffic code states that crosswalks exist in every intersection. They may be marked or unmarked, but they exist just the same. The traffic code also prohibits pedestrians from walking in the roadway if there is a sidewalk.

Every Corner is a Crosswalk poster | Image courtesy of Share the, St. George News

Finally, the traffic code provides for the unexpected in situations when all else fails, requiring drivers to use “due care to avoid colliding with pedestrians, no matter where they are.”

This statement reinforces the idea that everyone is responsible when it comes to keeping children safe as they cross the street or walk alongside roadways.

For young children, learning to cross the street safely takes time. The perceptual abilities of children are slow to develop, making them less adept at making calculations that are critical when crossing the street, according to a 2012 study conducted at the University of London.

One of these crucial calculations refers to the child’s ability to determine the speed of approaching cars. Young children are three times as likely to get hit by a car when traffic speed exceeds 25 miles an hour, the study states.

Not only do drivers need more reaction time to stop their vehicles when they are traveling at higher speeds, but the research suggests that young pedestrians simply can’t see the cars coming in the first place.

Another report by Safe Kids Worldwide, “Facts About Injuries to Child Pedestrians,” shows that motorists often violate stop sign rules at intersections in school zones and residential neighborhoods.

Forty-five percent of drivers don’t come to a complete stop while 37 percent roll through the stop sign and 7 percent don’t even slow down, Safe Kids Worldwide reports.

Pedestrian safety tips

These tips are provided by Safe Kids Worldwide:

  • Always cross at corners and crosswalks, not diagonally or between parked cars.
  • Stop before stepping into the road; look left, look right and look left again, listen for traffic and wait until cars stop or the street is clear.
  • Look drivers in the eye to make sure they’ve seen you.
  • Keep looking and listening until you’ve crossed the street.
  • Encourage kids to be especially alert for cars that are turning or backing up.
  • If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
  • Children under 10 need to cross the street with an adult. Every child is different, but developmentally, most kids are unable to judge the speed and distance of oncoming cars until age 10.

One of the primary goals of the Utah Department of Transportation’s Traffic and Safety Division is to improve safety in the areas surrounding schools. Programs implemented statewide support that aim.

One such program is the Safe Routes To School program that supports crossing improvements and educational programs that promote safe walking and bicycling to and from elementary, middle and junior high schools.

The Student Neighborhood Access Program, also known as SNAP, is a fun and comprehensive program for walking and biking safely to school that engages and educates students, parents, school administrators, crossing guards and communities.


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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2017, all rights reserved.

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  • Proud Rebel April 1, 2017 at 8:16 am

    Some drivers actually obey the rules of the road, or at least strive to do so. But it seems that there are always the drivers who think they are above the laws. And the drivers that feel they are such “good” drivers that they will never be involved in a crash. And then there are the drivers who just flatly don’t care.
    These are obvious facts. So what is the solution?
    Perhaps we need a two prong approach to this. First, we need to teach children to be aware of the traffic. Drill some survival skills into their heads. This is something that every parent needs to take the responsibility to do. Schools also have responsibility here. Start teaching these kids right from the first day of school, and do it in every elementary school grade.
    Second, for the drivers who ignore the rules of the road, start hitting them with fines that are high enough to get their attention. If they ignore the school zones, perhaps some jail time might get their attention.
    We don’t need more laws. But we do need to enforce the laws we already have. Give drivers the very real incentive to drive legally.
    And if we need more adult crossing guards, find the money to hire and train them. Sitting and wringing our hands is pointless. Let’s get some positive action going here.

  • Rob83 April 1, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    I was surprised by the percentage of people that roll through stop signs. Point is, follow the laws of the road, they are to protect us and our children. I agree with Proud Rebel, increase the amount paid for tickets. Jail time would definitely get people to recognize the seriousness/importance of following the rules of the road. Sorry to say, but I laugh at people when they get pulled over, I hate seeing people who speed and never get much further than me, yet they cut a few people off and almost cause an accident.

  • utahdiablo April 1, 2017 at 11:54 pm

    We’ve asked Udot and the Washington County law enforcement to put in Speed bumps in front of school crosswalks for just this reason, to slow down these dumb as dirt drivers…..and all we are told is it’s against the law to have a speed bump in the street, BS…just a excuse to do nothing, we don’t need our children to be the speed bumps, fix the problem Utah

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