School crossing guards have one of the most challenging and stressful jobs. Every day, morning and afternoon, they are entrusted with the safety of millions of young children. It is an intense time, as youngsters gather to cross the street, the light begins to change, late comers run to make it across before the light turns red, and many times, drivers ignore or jump the light, coming into the crosswalk even before the light has changed. The crossing guard has to keep an eye on every one of his or her charges, as well as the cars waiting anxiously at the light. Parents are also stressed especially those who live where the streets are very busy.
Now there is very good news for parents, school officials, crossing guards and those little children who have to run as fast they can to make it across the street each day. The Utah State Department of Transportation debuted a new technology in Salt Lake Valley last Wednesday. It is a specially designed key that operates the signal box, enabling the crossing guard to add 10-15 seconds to the signal light. Typically the time on the crosswalk is 30 seconds which is very little time for school children to safely walk or bike across the street. The extra 15 seconds, which seems very short, will make an enormous difference.
With the special key, the crossing guard can add time to the crosswalk signal at peak times, such as just before school begins and at the end of the school day, when there is the largest number of school children needing to cross the street safely. When the rush of school children each morning and afternoon is over, the crossing guard can remove the key from the signal box, and the timing returns to normal.
The Utah Traffic Operations Center is the first in the country to develop this technology which costs $20 for each crosswalk, plus around 30 minutes to install. A very small investment for a huge return of safety and peace of mind.