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Thursday, August 30, 2012

School Crossing Guards: A Help and A Hindrance

     With Westfield public schools opening in less than a week, school crossing guards will be manning their posts to assist children crossing streets to and from school.  The duties of a school crossing guard are vital and increase the safety of the crossing students at busy intersections throughout town.
Except for a Westfield auxiliary or sworn police officer, adult crossing guards "shall not direct traffic in the usual law enforcement regulatory sense."  

See the MUTCD "Section 7D.05 Operating Procedures for Adult Crossing Guards" listed below. 

     Earlier this year Westfield Police Traffic Safety Sgt. Jason McErlean was asked what authority adult crossing guards have directing traffic through STOP signs after students have crossed.  Sgt. McErlean declined to answer and referred all questions to the police department's Watch Commander which happened to be Sgt. Jason Rodger on that specific day (a Friday morning.)  Sgt. Rodger stated he would pass the information on up to the Chief of Police.  On that day, Sgt. Rodger did not know who was in charge of the police department as outgoing police chief John Parizeau was on terminal leave and the Town had not yet named a replacement, at least not publicly. 

     During the last town council meeting, the topic of some adult crossing guards directing traffic and causing near accidents was brought up before the council without any response from the town council's Public Safety Committee Chairwoman, Acting Mayor JoAnn Neylan.  

     On any given day during the school year, crossing guards at intersections such as Dudley & Clark St., Clark St. & Cowperthwaite, Rahway Ave. & Grove St., Rahway Ave. & Willow Grove Rd., and Westfield Ave. & Park St. have been seen crossing students and then remaining in the street waving traffic through STOP signs while vehicles with the right of way are authorized to remain stopped.     

     Two incidents where a crossing guard left the middle of the street as he waved vehicles through a STOP sign almost resulted in a collision as traffic with the right of way began to move after seeing the guard leave the street and vehicles continued through the STOP sign.     TFoTM understands that in some instances traffic backs up down streets without traffic being directed through stop signs.  However, this is a duty authorized by trained sworn police officers and not adult crossing guards.     A parent that was asked about the potential dangers of crossing guards directing traffic suggested that they not do it and to let traffic back up in the hopes that more parents would walk, instead of driving, their children to school or have them ride bicycles to alleviate the congestion around the schools.     

     One way or the other, town officials need to set the record straight and correct the problem before some school crossing guards become a hindrance to pedestrians and motorists alike.

MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices)
2009 Edition Chapter 7D. Crossing Supervision

Section 7D.01 Types of Crossing Supervision
Support:01 There are three types of school crossing supervision:
  1. Adult control of pedestrians and vehicles by adult crossing guards,
  2. Adult control of pedestrians and vehicles by uniformed law enforcement officers, and
  3. Student and/or parent control of only pedestrians with student and/or parent patrols.
02 Information regarding the organization, administration, and operation of a school safety patrol program is contained in the "AAA School Safety Patrol Operations Manual" (see Section 1A.11).

Section 7D.02 Adult Crossing Guards
Option:01 Adult crossing guards may be used to provide gaps in traffic at school crossings where an engineering study has shown that adequate gaps need to be created (see Section 7A.03), and where authorized by law.

Section 7D.03 Qualifications of Adult Crossing Guards
Support:01 High standards for selection of adult crossing guards are essential because they are responsible for the safety of and the efficient crossing of the street by schoolchildren within and in the immediate vicinity of school crosswalks.
Guidance:02 Adult crossing guards should possess the following minimum qualifications:
  1. Average intelligence;
  2. Good physical condition, including sight, hearing, and ability to move and maneuver quickly in order to avoid danger from errant vehicles;
  3. Ability to control a STOP paddle effectively to provide approaching road users with a clear, fully direct view of the paddle's STOP message during the entire crossing movement;
  4. Ability to communicate specific instructions clearly, firmly, and courteously;
  5. Ability to recognize potentially dangerous traffic situations and warn and manage students in sufficient time to avoid injury.
  6. Mental alertness;
  7. Neat appearance;
  8. Good character;
  9. Dependability; and
  10. An overall sense of responsibility for the safety of students.

Section 7D.04 Uniform of Adult Crossing Guards

Standard:01 Law enforcement officers performing school crossing supervision and adult crossing guards shall wear high-visibility retroreflective safety apparel labeled as ANSI 107-2004 standard performance for Class 2 as described in Section 6E.02.

Section 7D.05 Operating Procedures for Adult Crossing Guards
Standard:01 Adult crossing guards shall not direct traffic in the usual law enforcement regulatory sense. In the control of traffic, they shall pick opportune times to create a sufficient gap in the traffic flow. At these times, they shall stand in the roadway to indicate that pedestrians are about to use or are using the crosswalk, and that all vehicular traffic must stop.
02 Adult crossing guards shall use a STOP paddle. The STOP paddle shall be the primary hand-signaling device.
03 The STOP (R1-1) paddle shall be an octagonal shape. The background of the STOP face shall be red with at least 6-inch series upper-case white letters and border. The paddle shall be at least 18 inches in size and have the word message STOP on both sides. The paddle shall be retroreflectorized or illuminated when used during hours of darkness.
Option:04 The STOP paddle may be modified to improve conspicuity by incorporating white or red flashing lights on both sides of the paddle. Among the types of flashing lights that may be used are individual LEDs or groups of LEDs.
05 The white or red flashing lights or LEDs may be arranged in any of the following patterns:
  1. Two white or red lights centered vertically above and below the STOP legend,
  2. Two white or red lights centered horizontally on each side of the STOP legend,
  3. One white or red light centered below the STOP legend,
  4. A series of eight or more small white or red lights having a diameter of 1/4 inch or less along the outer edge of the paddle, arranged in an octagonal pattern at the eight corners of the STOP paddle (more than eight lights may be used only if the arrangement of the lights is such that it clearly conveys the octagonal shape of the STOP paddle), or
  5. A series of white lights forming the shapes of the letters in the legend.
Standard:06 If flashing lights are used on the STOP paddle, the flash rate shall be at least 50, but no more than 60, flash periods per minute.


  1. I got a suggestion....instead of sending Wayman for a ten week all expense paid vacation to Club FBI...why not send McErlan to a training course for the traffic safty unit that he heads....its nice to see that the watch commander has the insight to send those tough questions up the chain of command....wouldnt want him to get in trouble for answering a simple question......What a mess....

  2. here is a suggestion, tell the traffic sarge to cut back on the white castles and ne just might resemble the last four letters of his name.

  3. I say let them direct traffic! The crossing guard at Rahway and Willow Grove does an excellent job of keeping traffic moving. Without his help, no one would be able to get from Willow Grove onto Rahway and traffic at Tamaques would be worse then it already is. He prevents accidents from happening by giving all directions a turn at moving, instead of having frustrated drivers playing chicken and causing accidents. Kudos to him - he does a fine job and should be recognized and not bashed on this forum.

    1. TFoTM does not disagree with your opinion/observation that the crossing guard at Rahway & Willow Grove does an "excellent" job at keeping the traffic moving. However, in the event of an accident as a result of the crossing guard directing traffic, the liability would fall on the town if the crossing guard was instructed to, recommended to, or even hinted to direct traffic. The crossing guards responsibility is to cross children. If any instruction or direction is given to crossing guards, by the Westfield Police Department's Traffic Safety Bureau, to stand in the middle of an intersection and direct traffic after children have safely crossed, the crossing guards are in violation of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and the liability rests with the Town of Westfield. The question of whether or not the crossing guards are permitted to direct traffic has been asked multiple times and the the town's traffic safety consulting engineer Gordon Meth has not given a "straight" answer and the police department's traffic safety supervisor (Sgt. Jason McErlean) refuses to answer the question when asked.

    2. The guy who directs traffic there at Rahway and Willow Grove is AMAZING at it. He runs that intersection like a conductor in a symphony. He's got cars from three different directions, kids/parents looking to cross at the various crossing points and he just keeps it all in control, barely looking like he's breaking a sweat (and always smiling too). He really is on top of his game there. But, if this is correct and he's really supposed to just sit there waiting for a kid to come along and to just help that kid cross, rather than directing traffic, then that whole symphony will come crashing down and Rahway/Willow Grove just won't flow as well and as safely as this guy does it. This guy is really a treat to watch at work when it gets busy. Without him, that portion of road would be a total mess and very dangerous just before and just after school.

    3. If an intersection is so busy that directing traffic is a necessity, a police officer should be assigned to direct traffic as per the MUTCD. Unfortunately, town officials have reduced the number of police officers in Westfield and manpower is at a bare minimum. Having crossing guards handle the responsibilities of a police officer could fall into Mayor Skibitsky's "Doing More With Less" category. A $20 per hour crossing guard surely beats having to pay a police officer between $45 K and $100 K to do the same job. The only difference is that adult crossing guards are not supposed to direct traffic. Compromising public safety Is dangerous no matter how sweet the sounds of the symphony might sound.

    4. Who bashed the crossing guard at Willow Grove and Rahway ?

  4. I got an idea....instead of driving the kids to about they walk....would cut down on the congestion of traffic and they kids would get their exercise.....

  5. Westfield Police Officers don't know how to direct traffic which is why they don't think crossing guards are able. Sgt. McErlean had to step in one day last year at Roosevelt when Ziggy was in an accident and it was a nightmare.

    When the powers that are collecting big checks say they don't have the manpower to help then why did Lisa Perrotta travel up Cowperwaite this am (1st day of school) with her lights on to then sit in Roosevelt's parking lot? There was also a Police Officer sitting on North Avenue and Tuttle Parkway watching Bill (the crossing guard) watch the traffic build up.

  6. It is silly to devote police offiers to directing school traffic. It is something that laypeople can be easily taught. Para-cops are used anyway to direct traffic in town, so to the townspeople, this shoul dbe a savings. Besides, directing traffic in Westfield would be considered demeaning to our cops. They would rathe rfight crime and eat at Vicki's.

  7. The symphony takes place at Rahway and Dorian each morning an afternoon. The conductor Bruce Miller is a maestro with glow in the dark gloves.

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