Pedestrian Safety Skills for Parking Lots
Parking lots can be tricky to navigate for young pedestrians. This is an area where pedestrians and cars often share the same pathways. Safety issues for children are different for adults because child pedestrians are usually shorter than the cars, and drivers may not always see them. Also, children, particularly those aged 8 to 10 years, tend to be impulsive and may dart out into parking lot traffic. Ideally, parking lots are designed with pedestrians in mind by including sidewalks and marked crosswalks. However, since this is not always the case, it's important to teach children how to safely walk through parking lots.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed a Child Pedestrian Safety Curriculum for students in grades K-5 and is available online for free. Lesson 4 of the curriculum covers safety skills for navigating parking lots. Here are some highlights that may be helpful for children:
* Always hold the hand of a parent or guardian when walking through the parking lot
* Don't run or chase someone through the parking lot
* Make sure to keep at least two steps away from the bumpers of cars at all times
* Stay out of empty parking spaces
* Walk along medians and sidewalks if they are present
* If a toy rolls into a parking space, stay still (don't run after it) and tell an adult where it went
Discussions on School Parking Lot Design
School parking lots must accommodate the needs of several different users. They must be navigable by buses, parents dropping off students, and provide space for staff vehicles. Often parking lots are situated in the front of the building. In this case, parking lots should also provide pathways for pedestrians and bicyclists entering the school. All of these users need to move through the parking lot safely and efficiently.
Here are some helpful tips when designing or re-designing school parking lots:
* If possible, locate the parking lot behind the school's main entrance to reduce the exposure of pedestrians and bicyclists to vehicles.
* Traffic Calming measures may be used to slow down cars in front the school entrance - an area that is a common crossing point for pedestrians. Raised crosswalks may be appropriate. To see more information on raised crosswalks, look at the engineering section of the Safe Routes to School Guide.
* There are advantages and disadvantages to the vehicle parking orientation. To read about this discussion, see our entry on the advantages and disadvantages of using back-in and head-out angles parking.
* For more information on how a school can separate cars and buses from bicyclists, see our entry on the topic.