Written by: Kelly Banks – Program Manager – School Zone Safety Programs
They stand guard in Ottawa’s intersections when the school bells ring. And are there every morning and every afternoon. They are out there in 35-below temperatures. They stand in rain, snow, dust, and heat. They risk dangerous traffic and deal with aggressive motorists. They are the Adult Crossing Guards (ACG) of the City of Ottawa!
“Sure, we get yelled at, cursed at, beeped at, face dangerous drivers on a regular basis and endure terrible weather, but I’m sure every dedicated guard will agree with me — the positives outweigh the negatives! My favorite part of the day is when I get thumbs up and parents and kids shout my name and honk while driving by.” – Sophie Lamarche-Harkat, Adult Crossing Guard
A common misconception exists among the public. Some think that the Crossing Guards, with their orange vests and stop signs, are volunteers that just help kids out once in a while. The City funds the Adult Crossing Guard program in Ottawa. It is managed and administered by the Ottawa Safety Council. Did you know that municipalities are legislated by the Province to have Crossing Guards as part of the Highway Traffic Act? A motorist not heeding a Guard’s stop sign could find themselves with a hefty fine (between $150 and $500) and the loss of 3 demerit points.
“Guards use their skills to help all pedestrians cross the street and ensure that traffic can move smoothly.” – Roja Gowru, ACG
School Zones are busy places. The daily rush includes high traffic volumes and distracted motorists. A flurry of activity happens in school zones around bell times. Buses arrive and leave, parents drop off and pick up their children, and crowds of students are walking and biking around the school.
But who are the Adult Crossing Guards in Ottawa? And why would they want such a stressful job? They are a dedicated bunch. They cover 166 intersections across the City and care deeply about children and the safety of their communities. Here is what a few have to say:
“I believe it is an important job that is needed in the community to ensure the safety of our children, who are our future. I like building relationships with the children and their parents, who constantly thank me for instilling safety within the community.” – Lorraine Eyre, ACG
“I became a crossing guard 10 years ago because of my love for children and people in general.
I love being that constant positive person who the kids can count on before and after school to keep them safe.” – Kim Masse, ACG
The Ottawa Safety Council asked the community to show their appreciation. In May, they launched the Ottawa’s Favourite Crossing Guard contest and the Thank-A-Guard program. The support has been pouring in from the public:
Our Crossing Guard is an active member of our school community. Attends School Council, participates in spirit days, knows our families, always has a smile, takes her job seriously and is just AWESOME! – Caroline, School Faculty
Always friendly and kind, our Guard does his job very well at a busy intersection, he’s always conscious to the traffic and fair in terms of letting both cars and students pass safely. – Lisa, Parent
A Crossing Guard provides a safety net to students. But there is still a role for parents and schools. It is important to teach children about how to walk in traffic and cross the street safely. For resources and information on Pedestrian Safety presentations and children’s programs visit https://www.ottawasafetycouncil.ca.
So the next time you see an Adult Crossing Guard – give them a wave and a smile so they know that they are appreciated. They are dedicated to keeping our kids safe – and there is no nobler job than that!