New technology gives students more time at intersections, makes crosswalks more safe

SALT LAKE CITY -- Some new technology is available for Utah crossing guards to try and tackle an old concern: getting their students to and from school safely, especially through crosswalks.

The Utah Department of Transportation worked with electricians on the system and unveiled the new device Wednesday morning at one of the busier crosswalks in the Salt Lake Valley.

“It’s scary sometimes,” Veteran crossing guard Trudy Smith said.

She said it’s a daily challenge to get students safely to and from school through the various busy intersections.

"Those little kids have little legs, and trying to get across that big intersection, they were running to get across before,” she said of the days prior to receiving the new tool.

UDOT has made those crosswalks easier to manage, and it’s operated by a small, simple and cost-effective key.

"With this key switch we can increase the walk time only, and we can kick it up to 15 seconds temporarily, for the time the guard is there,” Electronics Manager Roy Gregerson said.

And that's a big deal for folks like Smith. UDOT worked with electricians to develop the system and say they are the first in the U.S. to put this technology into the hands of crossing guards.

"We can put it in everywhere that we have a new signal controller, the controller in the signal cabinet,” Gregerson said.

After UDOT installs the gear, the guard can activate it with a key. When flipped on, it adds those extra seconds of walk time.

That can be especially valuable in parts of Utah that are seeing major growth, and where lanes have been added to streets—like the area of 9000 South and 2200 West in West Jordan.

“So it'll help keep them safer, not only getting out of the street, but not falling in the street, you know, because they're in such a hurry,” Smith said.

And when the school rush hour is over, the key is removed, allowing traffic to return to its normal pattern.

The keys cost about $20 each, and it takes about a half an hour for an electrician to install the system. Schools interested in this new technology can email UDOT via askudottrafic@utah.gov