Too many close calls for crossing guards
Aug 29, 2019 09:21AM
By Mimi Darley Dutton
Crossing guards Dawn Garcia (left) and Sandy Smith participated in Draper’s Safety Days Fair to bring awareness to the need for safety in school zones. (Mimi Darley Dutton/City Journals)
By Mimi Darley Dutton | [email protected]
School is back in session and that means the crossing guards are out in their yellow vests with their hand-held stop signs. They do this job because it fits well into a parent’s schedule and they do it because they care about the safety of all children. Most of all, they do it because they love kids. But they need the public’s help in keeping everyone safe.
Draper has 20 stations with crossing guards and most have both north/south and east/west crossings happening, both before and after school.
Leslie Bruce serves as supervisor of the 42 crossing guards, who are employees of Draper City’s police department. Bruce said the intersection of 13200 South and 1300 East is their busiest. “Luckily enough we haven’t really had anyone hit there, but it is by millimeters…it’s kids or guards. Technically we did have a guard that was bumped into by a car, but she wasn’t injured. That was a couple years ago. But there have been tons of close calls at that intersection,” Bruce said.
The two biggest problems the crossing guards observe, according to Bruce, are drivers distracted by their cell phones or drivers turning right or left, often trying to beat a light before it turns red. “When the crossing guard pushes the button, the driver’s light to turn will not go to a flashing yellow — the light stays red arrow when pedestrians are crossing. Once pedestrians are safely across, the arrow light turns yellow or red. We’ll get three or four cars after that light turns red still turning the corner. It’s nuts,” Bruce said.
As employees of the police department, the crossing guards take that burden from police officers who can spend their time focused on other issues such as patrolling the city.
“If they observe a violation and are able to give us a plate number or good description of a vehicle, we’ll follow up and issue citations if necessary,” said Matt Coe, Draper police patrol sergeant.
Sandy Smith works at the crossing near Channing Hall. “It’s a wonderful job. You get to meet people and socialize and the children are awesome. The Channing kids have really good manners,” Smith said. She loves to give the kids candy, especially on holidays when she matches the candy theme to the holiday such as green Andes mints on St. Patrick’s Day. She cleverly offered “fish and chips” on the last day of school, consisting of goldfish crackers and cans of Pringles.
In 2017, Smith was subbing at the intersection of 13200 South and Fort Street after school when she was hit by a car, resulting in a total knee-replacement surgery. Smith explained that a crossing guard must stay in the middle of the crosswalk holding their stop sign until the last child crossing has their foot on the curb. “In that time I was standing there, she (the driver) came up behind me. The other crossing guard screamed. I turned quickly and the driver hit me on the right side of the knee. I got up and she sped off, but we did find her,” Smith said. Smith chuckled when she said that happened on a Friday the 13th, but she had a serious tone when she explained it was scary and hard to return to work one year later, after she’d recovered. “They say it’s like riding a horse. If you fall, you have to get back on it. We had three crossing guards that got hit that year,” Smith said.
Dawn Garcia came full circle on an understanding of and appreciation for crossing guards. She had recently moved here from California when she was cited for a violation in a school zone. Her choices were to pay a fee or watch crossing guards on the job for a better understanding. “I went to watch and they told me they were hiring. Now I am more aware. I am so thankful that I am a crossing guard. I am a much better driver now, I notice things — it’s really opened my eyes. I think that when kids are going to get their driver’s license, I would recommend they sit at a crossing to oversee and be aware. That’s been the biggest thing for me, seeing what stupid things people do has made me a better driver,” Garcia said.
Garcia has had several close calls, including last year when a driver was inches from her. “I’ll be in the middle of the road with my sign and they’ll look at me and they’ll just go right through it because the kid isn’t there yet or the kid has passed. But a stop sign means stop,” she said.
The crossing guards and their supervisor have the same simple requests: Pay attention, get off your phone, go slow, and be aware that kids are there. They say they feel that often parents drop their own children off, then don’t show the same care for other people’s children as they rush to the next place they’re driving to.
“It could be your child or grandchild, your friend’s child,” Smith said. “We don’t want to have to go to that child’s parents and tell them they were hit.”