Pedestrian Safety Guide and Countermeasure Selection System


An advance pedestrian crossing sign in a school zone. Photo by Michael Hintze (2012)




School Zone Improvement

A variety of roadway improvements may be used to enhance the safety or mobility of children in school zones. The use of well-trained adult crossing guards has been found to be one of the most effective measures for assisting children in crossing streets safely. Sidewalks or separated walkways and paths are essential for a safe trip from home to school on foot or by bike. Adult crossing guards require training and monitoring and should be equipped with a bright and reflective safety vest and a STOP paddle. Police enforcement in school zones may be needed in situations where drivers are speeding or not yielding to children in crosswalks.

Other helpful measures include parking prohibitions near intersections and crosswalks near schools; increased child supervision at crossings; and the use of signs and markings, such as the school advance warning sign (which can be fluorescent yellow/green) and SPEED LIMIT 25 MPH WHEN FLASHING. Schools should develop "safe routes to school" plans and work with local agencies to identify and correct problem areas. Marked crosswalks can help guide children to the best routes to school. School administrators and parent-teacher organizations need to educate students and parents about school safety and access to and from school. Education, enforcement, and well-designed roads must all be in place to encourage motorists to drive appropriately.

One of the biggest safety concerns around schools is parents or caretakers dropping off and picking up their children. There are two immediate solutions: (1) a clearly-marked area where parents are permitted to drop off and pick up their children, and (2) drop-off/pick-up regulations provided to parents on the first day of school. Drop-off areas must be located away from where children on foot cross streets or access the school. Parent drop-off zones must also be separated from bus drop-off zones. If parents can be trained to do it right at the start of the school year, they are likely to continue good behavior throughout the year.

For a longer term solution, it is preferable to create an environment where children can walk or bicycle safely to school, provided they live within a suitable distance. One concept that has been successful in some communities is the concept of a “walking bus,” where an adult accompanies children to school, starting at one location and picking children up along the way. Soon, a fairly sizeable group of children are walking in a regular formation, two by two, under the supervision of a responsible adult who is mindful of street crossings. The presence of such groups affects drivers’ behavior, as they tend to be more watchful of children walking. Parents take turns accompanying the “walking school bus” in ways that fit their schedules.

More information can be found about walking to school on the Safe Routes to School website, which can be accessed at this link:


Conditions exist around schools that create unsafe conditions for pedestrians, especially children; these conditions impact their safety and ability to travel to and from school. School zone improvements can enhance pedestrian safety around schools.


• Safety must be a combined effort between local traffic officials, police, school officials, parents, and students.

A comprehensive training and resource guide for improving walking conditions near schools is available as part of the Safe Routes to School (SRTS).1 Another guide to starting a Safe Routes to School Program is available from the Maryland Department of Transportation.2 Also, the Washington State Department of Transportation provides a guide outlining strategies to make walking and biking to school easier and safer.3 The Adult School Crossing Guard Guidelines document could also be a helpful resource.4

Estimated Cost

Costs vary widely depending on the type of treatment chosen. Concrete sidewalks are approximately $50 per square yard (see section on sidewalks). Crosswalks can range from $100 to $3,000 (see section on crosswalks). School zone signs cost around $200 each, while a more complex treatment such as a pedestrian refuge island with a crosswalk costs around $12,000.

Safety Effects

A summary of studies that have looked at the safety effects of school zone treatments can be found here.

Case Studies

Bellevue, WA
Montgomery County, Maryland
Portland, OR
Green Bay, WI, Metropolitan Area
Albemarle, Virginia
Phoenix, Arizona
Phoenix, Arizona