Traffic Safety Patterns: Guidelines for Schools and Parishes

The process of dropping off and picking up students for school or religious education classes can be chaotic. Proper coordination and implementation of a traffic safety plan are essential for the protection of pedestrians and drivers.   

Establishing a Plan

Before devising a plan to keep drop-off and pick-up chaos to a minimum, analyze the volume and flow of traffic at your site, including motor vehicle, bicycle, and pedestrian movement. It is important to observe the speed of cars and buses and the travel lanes that they use, looking for potential conflicts between buses, vans, cars, pedestrians, and bicyclists. A police presence may be necessary or required. You may want to contact your local police department’s safety officer to review your plan. Your safety officer will be able to provide you with valuable information and advice, and this will also help establish a good relationship and partnership with the local police department.

School staff should also survey the public streets surrounding the school. “School Zone” signs that limit speed should be visible to all drivers. If signs are missing, in disrepair or hidden behind trees or shrubs, petition the city or town to rectify the situation. If vehicles are speeding, reach out to local police to help enforce speed limits. Staff should also walk all sidewalks that surround the school and evaluate whether there are sufficient crosswalks. Crosswalks should be located where it is safe for students to cross the road and should be clearly marked. 

Crossing guards, good signage, and curb markings also help to keep things running smoothly during drop-off and pick-up times. Crossing guards are there to supervise and direct traffic flow and keep walkers and bikers safe. Schools may want to assess where crossing guards are located and petition local police departments to provide guards as needed. 

Signage is Critical   

Driving lanes for parents to drop-off and pick-up their children should not conflict with bus or pedestrian walkways. These lanes should be well-marked with signs and perhaps diagrams that communicate the procedures to parents. A school or parish staff member should always supervise pick-up and drop-off to ensure that parents follow the traffic safety procedures. 

General Recommendations 

Below is a summary of general traffic safety recommendations: 

  • Designate a single drop-off area.
  • If possible, designate a separate drop off place for preschoolers.
  • Vehicles should proceed to the drop-off area in a single lane, pulling as close to the curb as possible.
  • Students should be dropped off curbside in front of the building entrance.
  • Students should exit the car on the passenger side.
  • The driver, who should remain in the vehicle the entire time, should pull away from the curb slowly.
  • There should be no passing of vehicles in the drop-off area. Traffic cones and signs should be utilized as necessary to control traffic lanes.
  • Although this practice is discouraged, if a student is dropped off on the opposite side of the street, he or she should be instructed to cross at the crosswalk.
  • Be sure to share traffic safety protocols with any transportation service that the school may hire for special events, such as field trips.
  • At school dismissal, students who take buses should be dismissed before students who walk or are picked up by their parents. After the buses have left the school property, students who walk home from school should be dismissed.  

Getting the Word Out

Whichever traffic safety protocol a school or parish wishes to employ, it should be shared with anyone responsible for dropping off or picking students up at the school or parish. 

A one page document describing traffic safety procedures and a traffic flow diagram should be prepared and distributed to parents so that they know how to approach the school or religious education building. The bulletin should be sent home with students, emailed to parents and posted on the parish, school and religious education website. The traffic safety policy should also be included in the student handbook and updated whenever changes are implemented.  

There is no substitute for supervision and consistent enforcement of traffic safety rules. Staff should be assigned to monitor vehicle and pedestrian movement during drop-off and dismissal.

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