For 100 years, AAA Washington’s School Safety Patrol Program Has Helped Kids Keep Kids Safe
BELLEVUE, Wash. (Aug. 30, 2022) – As schools across Washington re-open for the 2022/2023 school year, AAA Washington – a trusted leader in traffic safety – shares ways to protect students with tips for drivers and pedestrians alike. This year, AAA Washington celebrates 100 years of empowering kids to keep other kids safe through its AAA School Safety Patrol Program. Established in 1922, the program has supported thousands of students, grades four through eight, as volunteer crossing guards while also preparing them for lifelong leadership.
“As the school year starts, AAA Washington wants drivers near schools to keep an eye open for those fluorescent green or ‘Lectric Lime vests, announcing the presence of a AAA School Safety Patrol Program,” said Kelly Just, Public Affairs Manager with AAA Washington. “This year marks the program’s 100th year in Washington. It is a significant milestone for us — a century of helping students become leaders and traffic safety advocates within their school communities.”
AAA Washington encourages drivers and pedestrians alike to help keep kids safe on the streets this school year through the following tips:
- Slow down. Follow those 20-mph school-zone speed limits.
- Make room for bicycles. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing space between your vehicle and a bike. More at ShareTheRoad.AAA.com.
- Eliminate distractions. Taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles the chance of being involved in a crash.
- Review school bus laws.
In Washington, all drivers traveling the same direction as a school bus must stop when the stop sign “paddle” extends, and red lights are flashing. On a two-lane road, drivers traveling the opposite direction to the bus must also stop. Three lanes or more, including a center turning lane? Drivers traveling the opposite direction of the bus may proceed with caution.
Idaho drivers traveling in both directions on a roadway with three or fewer lanes must all stop for that extended stop sign paddle and flashing red lights. Once on roadways with four or more lanes, only drivers traveling the same direction as the bus need stop.
- Stay alert in crossing zones. Be mindful of the thousands of Washington AAA School Safety Patrollers volunteering near crossing zones. Make eye contact with them to ensure maximum safety.
Before classes begin, AAA suggests parents and caregivers map out the safest route to school for their young pedestrian(s), then walk it together to pick the best intersections for crossings and become familiar with the daily trek. AAA encourages these parents to give kids the following instructions:
- Walk on sidewalks. Look for cars pulling into and backing out of driveways.
- If no sidewalk exists, walk on the left side of the road — facing traffic.
- Cross at intersections with a traffic light or marked crosswalk.
- Watch for turning cars. That includes looking back over your shoulder.
- Never cross between parked cars.
- Be especially alert in bad weather. Drivers may be unable to stop quickly in rain, snow, fog.
- Obey police officers, adult crossing guards and AAA School Safety Patrollers.
- Play away from traffic. Stay in playgrounds, schoolyards and your own backyard.
About the AAA School Safety Patrol Program
In 1922, Washington joined the AAA School Safety Patrol Program with the first squad of student crossing guards at John Muir Elementary in Seattle. By the end of the decade, the program expanded to hundreds of communities along the Interstate 5 corridor and east over the Cascades to Wenatchee and Yakima. Today, more than 750 schools around Washington participate in the AAA School Safety Patrol.
In 1949, AAA started recognizing patrollers who saved a life while on duty. Of the 441 patrollers awarded the AAA Lifesaving Medal, eight came from Washington — most recently in 2020. In 1992, AAA Washington launched its own patroller recognition program. Every year, a panel of judges from AAA, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Information and the regional office of the National Highway Transportation Administration selects ten patrollers for induction into its School Safety Patrol Hall of Fame. Visit the Hall of Fame webpage and learn how the 2022 class earned this honor.
In addition to promoting traffic safety, the AAA School Safety Patrol has given many students a first step toward a career of public service and leadership. The program boasts an impressive alumni list that includes three former Presidents, astronauts, Olympic athletes, Washington’s superintendent of public instruction, Chris Reykdal and our very own CEO, Heather Snavely served in grade six.