CITY OF ELKHART,
KIDSAFE Ties School Traffic Safety to Neighborhood Safety Plans
The City of Elkhart geared up for traffic safety this year by targeting school zone safety. Designed to meet the traffic safety needs of the city’s elementary schools - fourteen public and three parochial - the initiative will also be adapted for future use at the middle and high school levels.
Kicked off by Mayor James Perron on August 24, the opening day of school, the traffic safety program started with "Walk a Kid to School Day." The mayor specifically asked Elkhart’s government and business leaders to walk a child to school so that they could familiarize themselves with school traffic safety needs.
The second element of the city’s program calls for a pedestrian/bicycle safety assembly to be conducted at each of the elementary schools as early in the year as possible. The goal is to have numerous police officers involved in these presentations, and the Police Department is working with school principals on scheduling the events.
Awards and Neighborhood Safety Plans
The third element of the school traffic safety program is the development of a community safety award that will be presented to participating schools. However, in order to qualify for an award, each school will have to adopt a traffic safety plan for the neighborhood. This plan will surround the school with designated crossing locations; describe the programs for the opening day of school and the traffic safety assembly; and indicate what assistance is needed to distribute education materials. The awards program will also be publicized by a media campaign to heighten parental and neighborhood awareness of school safety zones.
Preparatory to the development of neighborhood safety plans, the police department did an inventory of traffic signage around schools before August 24. The city made certain that appropriate signage - 20 miles per hour school safety zone signs - was within three hundred feet of all elementary schools, excluding arterial routes.
The exact criteria for the awards are still being developed by the police department, but consideration is being given to requiring schools to have a certain number of components in their plans. Corporations may be asked to sponsor trophies for the awards.
Another element of the school traffic safety program involves the city’s crossing guards, who are receiving training on issues such as Coronary Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR), First Aid Training and pedophile awareness. Crossing guards will also be trained in observation of situations that might lead to solving crimes or apprehending criminals who endanger children. They will be made aware of such things as gang signs or who-to-contact issues such as children on their way to school being confronted by street drug dealers. The city will try to use a teach-the-teacher concept and will include such traditional training elements such as "stop, look, and listen" at each crosswalk.
Publicizing the Program
The city also devoted a water bill insert entitled "Neighborhood News" to the city’s new Operation KIDSAFE program that went out prior to the opening of school. This brochure outlines the city’s traffic safety initiatives and encourages citizen participation.
Contact: Gary Gilot, Director of Public Works and Utilities, Elkhart, 219/294-5471.
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright ©1996, U.S. Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.