Capital News Service
Friday, October 31, 2003
LANSING -- A new proposal could ensure improved safety for schoolchildren at
busy intersections throughout the state.
Rep. Scott Shackleton, R-Sault Ste. Marie, wants to change the minimum age for crossing guards from 18 to 17, saying that it could benefit areas struggling to fill the positions.
Although many regions are facing this problem, Petoskey in particular is short of people willing to take the job, Shackleton said.
“People don’t want to take the time to be a crossing guard,” said Michael Vargo, director of the Petoskey Department of Public Safety.
At times, as many as seven crossing persons guarded the city, but recently only two to three people are doing the job, he said.
Retired people who live near crossings are usually the best candidates for the position but are very hard to find, Vargo said.
Since most of the schools in the area start within 10 minutes of one another, high school seniors can help to fill the void. However, the stigma attached to the position turns many students away.
Vargo said that his daughter worked as a crossing guard when she was in school to make a little extra money.
“She took a lot of static from her other kids at the school,” he said. “Most 18 or 19-year-olds wouldn’t be caught dead out there. If we can dip into the 17-year-olds and get them to work, I think that they would value the position more.”
Petoskey crossing guards are paid $6.50 every time that they work, which is usually two times each school day.
“It’s the idea of being able to fill the need,” Shackleton said. “We can promote safety by having people on the corner.”
In 2001, cars and trucks killed 167 pedestrians and injured 3,036 in Michigan. Twenty-one of those killed and 586 of those injured were under 16, according to the Michigan Office of Highway Safety Planning.
“If we have one pedestrian death a year, that’s one too many,” Vargo said.
The American Automobile Association of Michigan provides training guidelines and assistance to local governments in deciding how to deploy crossing guards. In addition, the AAA sponsors school safety patrols involving about 40,000 safety patrollers in more than 1,300 schools throughout the state.
Under Michigan law, crossing guards are hired and supervised by the local government, whereas safety patrollers are appointed and assigned to areas by their schools.
“I myself was on the safety patrol in the fifth and sixth grade,” Shackleton said.
At busy intersections, crossing guards are better trained to deal with the situation than safety patrollers, Vargo said.
Crossing guards are required to go through an initial four-hour training session, followed by an additional two-hour refresher class every year.
Sandy Long, executive assistant at the Lansing Area Safety Council, said that the council usually trains guards in August, right before the school year begins.
Training includes basics like how to hold up the stop sign as well as CPR training and talks from guest speakers, Long said.
“We get a variety of people in training,” she said. “There are a lot of retired people who love kids and want to help them cross the street.”
Copyright 2003 Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism