A 2016 study by the Washington, D.C.-based Safe Kids Worldwide found that school crossings carry hidden risks for students. After observing 39,000 walkers and 56,000 motorists in school crossings, the study recorded a variety of dangerous conducts. These dangerous behaviors include distractive walking by school children, negligent drivers or cyclists, incompetent crossing guards, and inadequate or missing school zone markings.
In early June 2021, a volunteer crossing guard at the Stanley Middle School in Lafayette, California, suffered fatal injuries and died later on after getting hit by an SUV. According to a police report, the victim, who was later identified as Ashley Dias, was struck after barely shoving children to safety. This tragic incident is proof of dangers that lurk on school crossings.
Common Hidden Risks of School Crossings
Distractive Walking by School Children and Teenagers
The 2016 Safe Kids Worldwide study found the distraction prevalence for the 33 participating middle schools and 34 participating high schools to be 17% and 27% respectively. Distracted students had a high likelihood of texting or wearing headphones while walking, no matter the type of school.
Negligent Drivers or Cyclists
Motorists, cyclists, and other vehicle operators have a legal duty to stay in control of their vehicles at all times and obey traffic signs and signals. Drivers and cyclists, however, use unsafe speeds in school crossings and engage in distractive activities like using personal devices while driving. Attending to kids or fiddling with the radio while driving can result in a tragic motor vehicle accident, especially when so many students are on the path of a negligent driver.
Incompetent Crossing Guards
Most school crossings have inadequately trained crossing guards. An incompetent crossing guard is more likely to make a mistake that can result in tragic consequences when helping children navigate intersections or cross a road. The guard may, for instance, ignore traffic signs and signals when guiding students across a highway.
Risky Pick-Up and Drop-Off Areas
School teachers are mostly responsible for directing traffic through areas where kids get to or leave schools in their parent’s cars, while simultaneously watching students assembled around the corner. This is a dangerous environment for drivers, school teachers, and students, particularly in bad weather when there is low visibility and students are running across the roadway to avoid the rain.
Inadequate or Missing School Zone Markings
Vehicle operators must know they are in a school zone for them to observe school zone laws. Crosswalk stripes, flashing lights, and signage installed to ease up traffic can function only if they are present and adequately maintained for maximum visibility. The Safe Kids study found that 30% of observed school crossings lacked marked crosswalks, and only 40% of surveyed school crossings featured signs of recommended safe speed (20 mph).
Seeking Legal Support
A parent whose child was injured at a school crossing due to negligent actions of a school, its employees, or motorists can file an injury lawsuit against the liable party on the child’s behalf. A car accident lawyer can investigate the accident and gather sufficient evidence to hold the at-fault parties liable for their actions. The lawyer can also help the parent recover full damages on the child’s behalf.