Pedestrian safety for school-age children has been a growing problem in recent years. Children between the ages of five and nine represent less than 10 percent of Kentucky's population but over 16 percent of all pedestrian fatalities. A study was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of regulatory school flashers used in school zones to reduce vehicle speeds and alert motorists of pedestrian activity and to determine measures which promote safety in school zones.

Speed studies were conducted during flashing and non-flashing periods at 48 school zones where regulatory school flashers were used. The locations involved a variety of speed limits (15.6 to 24.6 m/s (35 to 55 mph)), highway types (two-lane and four-lane roads), location types (rural areas, towns, and large cities), and pedestrian and traffic volumes.

Average speed reduction during flashing periods was only 1.6 m/s (3.6 mph); 71 percent of the locations showed speed reductions less than 1.8 m/s (4 mph). Only two locations had speed reductions over 4.5 m/s (10 mph). Flashers in 24.6-m/s (55-mph) zones were found to increase the potential for inter-vehicle accidents. The presence of crossing guards or police resulted in speed reductions of approximately 4 m/s (9 mph). High pedestrian volumes in several school zones contributed to a 0.9-m/s in virtually no speed reductions. Excessively long flashing periods resulted in speed reductions of less than 1.2-m/s (2.6 mph).

Recommendations included routine inspections and improved maintenance of school flashers. Postmounted flashers should be replaced with overhead flashers in commercial areas or where sight distance is restricted. Speed enforcement was encouraged for some locations, and uniformed crossing guards were recommended where short vehicle gaps or high speeds prevail. For locations with 24.6-m/s (55-mph) to 15.6-m/s (35-mph) speed limits, the speed limits in the school zones should be increased from 11.2 m/s (25 mph) to 15.6 m/s (35 mph) during flashing periods. Special pedestrian phasing was recommended for several traffic signals near school zones.

Report Date


Report Number

No. 520

Digital Object Identifier



International Symposium on Traffic Control Systems, August 6-9, 1979, Berkeley, California.