School crossing guards get their day

School crossing guards get their day

SAVOY — When it comes to enforcing the rules of school traffic at Carrie Busey Elementary, crossing guard Susan Bolin is friendly, but firm.

She even set Principal Jeff Scott straight, when he recently forgot the road in front of the school allows only northbound traffic during the school day.

Bolin yelled to keep him from turning the wrong way out of the school's parking lot, Scott said.

Bolin's job is crucial, Scott said, because most of the school's students live north of the intersection of Prairie Rose Lane and Sunflower Street, where Bolin watches three crosswalks before and after school.

In the mornings, all the cars dropping students off drive north through the intersection, as do all the school's buses.

"I have not worried about safety since (Bolin's) been here," Scott said.

Today is Crossing Guard Appreciation Day in Illinois, and Bolin is one of the local crossing guards being honored by the C-U Safe Routes to Schools Program, along with the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District.

Others are crossing guards at Carrie Busey and at Yankee Ridge, Leal and Thomas Paine elementaries in Urbana.

Bolin said the weather can be a challenge, especially if it's raining or snowing.

She also sometimes has to give extra emphasis to drivers by pointing at the stop sign she carries while helping students and other pedestrians cross.

She's been a crossing guard for 19 years, and has spent most of that at Westview Elementary in Champaign. It's being renovated this year, so Bolin took the new intersection at Carrie Busey in the meantime. Next year, she'll go back to Westview.

She said she's been surprised by the number of people walking to Carrie Busey.

"I was shocked by how busy it was here," Bolin said.

Bolin said she thinks patience is the best quality a crossing guard can have, and she's most enjoyed "meeting the people and the kids."

Crossing guards are crucial to allowing kids to safely walk and bike to school, said C-U Safe Routes to School Program Chairwoman Cynthia Hoyle.

"We have a lot of busy streets that our students are crossing every day," Hoyle said. "Crossing guards help remind motorists that they're supposed to be stopping for students while they're in the crosswalk."

They can also remind parents and other motorists of the rules of school zones, including 20 mph speed limits.

Those are in place because nine times out of 10, a pedestrian hit by a driver going that speed will survive. If the car that hits the pedestrian is going 30 mph, there's a 50 percent chance of survival. If it's going 40 mph, that chance is 10 percent, Hoyle said.

"That's why it's so important that people obey school zone limits," Hoyle said. "I don't think anyone wants to responsible for hurting or killing a child."

Crossing guards can also encourage children to cross the street at crosswalks, rather than darting between cars, Hoyle said.

Hoyle said she believes crossing guards are underappreciated, working in all kinds of weather.

"You should stop and thank a crossing guard," she said. "Many do it out of a sense of wanting to help our students be safe."

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