Before the school day can begin for many kindergarten through fifth-grade students at Nottingham Elementary School, they must cross a busy intersection on their way from surrounding neighborhoods during morning rush hour.
To help make the journey through traffic safer, the Arlington County Police Department has equipped the crossing guard there with a new handheld stop sign that has LED lights dotting its edges to help get drivers’ attention.
The department received four such signs for crossing guards as part of a grant the county won from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program. Ashley Savage, a police spokeswoman, said the signs arrived just in time for winter weather, helping to ensure pedestrian safety when roads are slick.
The signs have been distributed to crossing guards at Barcroft, Taylor, and Nottingham elementary schools and at Thomas Jefferson Middle School as part of a countywide pilot program. The police department chose the schools based on area accident rates, traffic volume and requests from principals.
“We want to use these as testers to see if traffic guards are happy with them and if it helps,” Savage said of the signs, which cost $200 apiece. “If it does, we definitely want to expand them and increase the funding.”
Robyn Joseffer, a parent of two students at Nottingham, walks her children to school from a nearby neighborhood and said John Marshall Drive is a traffic-heavy roadway, especially before school when people are rushing to work.
Even when the intersection with Little Falls Road is not flooded with schoolchildren, she said, it seems dangerous — though police say there have been just two reported car-on-car accidents there since fall 2013.
Joseffer said the crossing guard, Teresa Noonan, takes great care to keep children safe. But on gloomy and gray days, she said, she thinks the lights will be a better way to alert drivers to the crossing. Joseffer remembered what would happen when a previous guard saw cars speeding past when students were around.
“One crossing guard had a notepad and would take down license-plate numbers of people who were speeding,” she said.
The use of handheld stop signs with LED lights can lead to a significant decrease in the speed of approaching vehicles, according to a Virginia Transportation Research Council study published in 2007. When the LED signs were in use, the average approach speed of vehicles decreased an average of 2.7 mph, or 7 percent, the study found.