The importance of school zone safety cannot be overstated. With so many lives at stake, school officials and transportation professionals have a responsibility to protect students – as well as teachers, staff and parents – in school zones using the best methods available.
However, between time and budget constraints and a global pandemic that has transformed education as we know it, maximizing school zone safety comes with major challenges. Fortunately, those challenges present valuable and potentially lifesaving opportunities.
Stretch your budget the farthest with school zone safety solutions that will not break the bank.
1. Install More Bike Racks
Account for increases in bike traffic by installing more bike racks around school, focusing on locations away from areas prone to gathering and crowding.
2. Use Delineators
Create clear pick-up and drop-off zones and make navigation easier with impact-resistant delineators. Look for cost-effective options that are very quick and easy to replace.
3. Enhance Crosswalk Markings
Three out of 10 school zone crossings observed in a SafeKids study were not clearly marked. Yet, crosswalk visibility enhancements can reduce crashes by 23 to 48 percent, according to the FHWA. Evaluate whether school zone crossing enhancements are necessary.
Enhancements include making all crosswalks ladder-style and embedding reflective glass beads into crosswalk markings. In addition, you can replace old traffic signs, such as school crossing signs, to meet retroreflectivity ratings and be fluorescent yellow-green (FYG).
Lastly, in-street pedestrian signs are ideal for school zone crosswalks because they alert drivers of local laws about yielding to or stopping for pedestrians. They also draw more attention to the crosswalk.
4. Help Out Crossing Guards
According to the FHWA, “the use of well-trained adult crossing guards has been found to be one of the most effective measures for assisting children with crossing streets safely.”
Make crossing guards’ jobs easier, safer and more effective with Visual Alert™ LED paddles, which are lightweight, handheld signs with flashing LEDs on the sign face. Proven to increase driver awareness, the paddles can feature STOP on both sides or STOP on one and SLOW on the other.
Add another layer of safety with high-visibility LED vests and portable, temporary in-street school zone crossing signs.
5. Consider School Crosswalk Systems
Prevent dangerous collisions by bringing more attention to pedestrians when they are in or about to enter crosswalks.
Rectangular Rapid-Flashing Beacons (RRFB) School Crosswalk Systems
RRFB School Crosswalk Systems feature amber LED light bars that flash to increase drivers’ awareness of pedestrians. A Florida study found RRFBs to bring driver yield rates from one percent up to an astounding 92 percent at a multi-lane crosswalk.
While RRFBs can flash in a variety of patterns, look for ones that use the wig-way plus simultaneous (WW+S) flash pattern outlined by Interim Approval 21 (IA-21).
BlinkerSign® School Crosswalk Systems
BlinkerSign® School Crosswalk Systems feature flashing amber LEDs embedded into the perimeter of the sign face that warn drivers of pedestrians up ahead, increasing yield rates at crosswalks. The LEDs on these MUTCD-compliant signs even dim automatically based on ambient light and are engineered to withstand harsh weather conditions.
BlinkerSign® LED-Enhanced Signs can flash 24/7 or be activated in a variety of ways.
6. Enhance School Crosswalk Systems
There are three key enhancements to school crosswalk systems proven to boost safety.
In-Road Warning Light Systems
Embedded in the pavement to outline the crosswalk and oriented to face oncoming traffic, in-road warning lights (IRWLs) flash in unison to alert drivers of pedestrians actively crossing the road ahead.
IRWLs have a low profile, allowing all road users to pass over them safely.
SafeWalk® Crosswalk Illuminators
For two-lane crossings with insufficient lighting, there is the SafeWalk® Crosswalk Illuminator.
It uses a flood light to illuminate the approach area of the crosswalk and a beam light to illuminate the center, ensuring motorists can see pedestrians throughout the crosswalk.
SafeWalk® is activated by pedestrians and only illuminates in the dark. Exceeding the FHWA’s 20 LUX requirement, it activates concurrently with LED-enhanced warning alerts during very low light conditions via passive or user actuation.
Connected Vehicle Interface
A connected vehicle interface (CVI) is an innovative enhancement to crosswalk or school zone systems that increases traffic safety. The CVI works with roadside units (RSUs) to relay Intelligent Warning System data to connected vehicles via dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) or cellular networks.
Connected vehicle drivers receive timely alerts about hazards – such as pedestrians in a crosswalk up ahead or the reduced speed limit in a school zone – via an onboard mobile device, dashboard screen or smart rearview mirror.
7. Reduce Drivers’ Speeds
With less students in school, drivers may be growing accustomed to ignoring school zone speed limits, and even a small increase in speed can be deadly. A pedestrian who collides with a car traveling 40 miles per hour has only a 20 percent chance of survival, according to the NHTSA.
However, if that car is traveling 20 miles per hour, the chance surges to 90 percent. In addition, speed has a tremendous impact on drivers’ field of vision and stopping distance.
Fortunately, there are two solutions designed specifically for school zones that can help.
BlinkerSign® School Zone Speed Limit Systems
School zone speed limit warning alerts combine posted school zone speed limit signs with LED-enhanced warning alerts that flash to draw attention to the active school zone speed limit and increase driver compliance.
When working with TAPCO, the warning alerts can be BlinkerSign® LED-Enhanced Signs or BlinkerBeacon™ LED Beacons that flash 24/7 or when scheduled via a time clock controller. Remote scheduling is also available using BlinkLink® traffic device-monitoring software.
BlinkerBeacon™ with BlinkerRadar™ School Zone Speed Limit Systems
By combining driver feedback signs with BlinkerSign® LED-Enhanced Signs or BlinkerBeacon™ LED Beacons, the MUTCD-compliant BlinkerRadar™ Driver Feedback System draws attention to speed limits and reduces average speeds.
If drop-off and pick-ups times are staggered and/or dynamic, the system’s time clock scheduling feature ensures the driver feedback functionality and flashing alerts only activate during set periods.
Standalone driver feedback signs have also been proven effective at increasing driver compliance, lowering speeds by an average of nine miles per hour in school zones.
8. Remotely Monitor Safety Solutions
Managing and monitoring school zone safety systems remotely saves school personnel an incredible amount of time and expense. Remote traffic device-monitoring software like BlinkLink® from TAPCO make that possible.
Create calendars for eight unique day types, with up to 16 activations per day for two years. Schedule times for different days, weeks and months. Remotely override schedules to turn the system on and off. Users can even upgrade third-party manual time clock systems to remote scheduling via BlinkLink® using the 4G time clock retrofit kit.
Plus, with the Lights Out alert feature, select users can be notified if a school zone system’s beacon is not operating.
9. Increase and Upgrade Signage
Drop-off and pick-up congestion can make it difficult for students to socially distance, and it slows everyone down right when school zones are at their busiest. Use wayfinding signage to seamlessly direct drivers and reduce congestion.
Wayfinding signage can even be used indoors to help students navigate through large buildings and campuses, especially when class and activity locations have shifted due to the pandemic.
In addition, improve driver compliance by upgrading existing signage – such as school crossing and stop signs – to be BlinkerSign® LED-Enhanced Signs. Both static and LED-enhanced signs can be standard or customized by vendors like TAPCO.
Here at OMNIA Partners, we understand that driving safety is a huge concern. That's why we've partnered with TAPCO to bring innovative safety solutions to your community. By utilizing TAPCO's nationwide cooperative contract that was competitively solicited and publicly awarded, you'll gain access to cost-effective solutions that improve safety for all.