Guardians of pedestrian crossings

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Crossing Guard guides children at a pedestrian crossing

Courtesy Ottawa Citizen

Every day we see them perform acts of intervention. At pedestrian crossings in school zones, they wave signs, blow whistles, or grab drivers attention with intense eye contact.

They have a lot of responsibility. Our kids lives are at stake. That’s why its understandable that some even have their own form of road rage.

There could be a super hero movie about them. Or a video game. Call it Guardians of the Crossing.

Extraordinary people making roads safer

Crossing guards are ordinary people, doing super things, morning, noon and night. Often in lousy weather. They are the most human aspect of safety in action at pedestrian crossings where young children walk to and from school.

Hired and trained by the local police, they are stationed at the intersections near schools. A crossing guard’s job is to ensure pedestrians make it across roads safely, and to assist in enforcing traffic laws.

Not all drivers and cyclists understand the law, and what they are supposed to do at an intersection manned by a crossing guard. Failure to do so can result in fines and 3 demerit points. So for the record, in Ontario:

Drivers – including cyclists – must stop and yield the whole roadway at pedestrian crossovers, school crossings and other locations where there is a crossing guard — Ministry of Transportation, Ontario, “Making Ontario Roads Safer Act” 2016

The laws of other provinces vary somewhat, but most require vehicles to stop at marked pedestrian crossings. Despite being the law, drivers don’t always stop.

A national safety army gets our kids to school

Guardians of the Crossing patrol pedestrian crossings in school zones

Courtesy Toronto Police Service

That is why nearly every community continues to employ crossing guards in school zones. There are about 600 in Toronto, over 150 in Ottawa, 1,500 – 2,000 in Quebec, and we estimate over ten thousand across Canada.

Through sleet and snow, searing heat, every school day they are there for hours. For that, they are thanked by parents, teachers and even some polite kids.

Impatient drivers may not always appreciate being delayed. We know distracted driving is now the #1 cause of collisions. We should all recognize crossing guards play a key role to ensure drivers see and stop at the pedestrian crossing, respect traffic laws, and keep our kids safe while they are walking to school.

Awarding everyday heroes

Unlike painted pavement, signs, or speed meters, crossing guards often contribute much more than traffic safety in their neighbourhood. They are teachers, coaches, and familiar faces regarded as pillars of their communities. They guard their designated intersection with fierce pride, protective of their flock of pedestrians. Give out smiles, words of encouragement, and generally keep an eye on things.

Parachute and FedEx team up on Canada's Favourite Crossing Guard Contest each year Each year Parachute Canada with the help of FedEx accepts nominations for Canada’s Favourite Crossing Guard. Meet Dave Innis, of St. John’s, NF, one of the 2017 winners.

The jury selects three nominations. They each receive $500, and the same amount for their school. They most likely get applause from the community and a cake. They deserve the bragging rights. The 2018 nominations for the contest are in and three winners will be selected and announced soon.

Its great to highlight those who go above and beyond. We think each and every crossing guard deserves to be celebrated. We all can appreciate how they make crossing the street safer, and the countless injuries they no doubt prevent.

Unfortunately, they are not there all the time. Despite the aid of crossing guards, we know from the statistics, pedestrians injuries are still happening. Zero is the goal, yet we are still a long way off.

Join us

There is more to be done to make it to zero. Join us as we explore and participate in figuring out what else we can do to help make pedestrian crossings safer.  Zebra stripes, crosswalk lights and metered speed signs– we are looking at other human and artificial tools effective measures to improve pedestrian safety.

Above all we think it will require more awareness and and shift in attitudes about safety.

We want to encourage as many schools, safety committees, companies and ordinary folks — whether walkers, riders or drivers– to do their part to make this preventable problem stop. Subscribe to follow this journey , or contact us to learn more about Trimtag’s Be Seen Visibility Project developments.