World’s Largest School-Based Safety Program Curbs Student Pedestrian Deaths
DEARBORN, Mich., (March 2, 2021) — AAA is proud to celebrate its School Safety Patrol program’s centennial anniversary. For 100 years, Patrollers around the world have provided school-aged children an extra sense of safety and security when going to and from school. The program and its more than 440 Lifesaving Award recipients have contributed to the steady decline of U.S. student pedestrian (ages 5–14) deaths—a 24% decrease since 2010.
“AAA’s School Safety Patrol program is the world’s largest school-based safety program. We could not be prouder of the thousands of young men and women annually who dedicate their time before and after school each day to ensure the safety of their classmates,” said AAA President and CEO, and former Patroller, Marshall Doney. “This community program teaches safety and leadership skills to ensure our youngest generations are making smart decisions. I can attest first hand. The important pedestrian and traffic safety measures I learned as a Patroller had a profound and lasting impact on my career.”
Created to make schoolchildren safer while walking to school, the program has grown-up and matured with the times while remaining steadfast to its mission to provide a safer environment and leadership opportunities for millions of schoolchildren. Started as a boys-only initiative when horses and buggies were still a transportation mode, the program has evolved to include girls. The training that Patrollers receive instills safety sense beyond street crossings, including bus and car drop-offs, monitoring hallway congestion, and teaching Patrollers invaluable leadership skills. The famous Patroller belt has seen change, too, going from white to neon orange to today’s fluorescent green called ‘Lectric Lime.
“Patrollers direct children, not traffic. Their focus is on helping students be safe where traffic is concerned,” said Adrienne Woodland, spokesperson, AAA-The Auto Club Group. “Their actions save lives. Patrollers serve as role models in schools across the country.”
For some students, becoming a Patroller is inspired by wanting to help others and the privilege to wear the safety patrol belt and badge proudly. For others, it is also a family tradition, like Nelson Wilner who currently lives in Grand Rapids and served as a Safety patroller in Troy, Michigan. His wife, daughter and brother-in-law all proudly served as Patrollers.
“It was the first position that I had responsibility, but it was the first that I really had a taste of some leadership. I didn’t know it at the time and I wouldn’t have called it leadership,” Wilner said. “Now I lead an organization of 150 people and I really tie it back to that very first time with that taste of leadership.”
The belt may come off after fifth grade, but the leadership values and safety awareness have inspired many to pursue admirable careers, including the sitting president Joe Biden. Other notable Patrollers include former presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, astronauts, governors, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices, Olympic medalists, and authors, like Diary of a Wimpy Kid Jeff Kinney.
Many Patrollers now serve as law enforcement, executives, and community leaders. Some, like Robert McTyre, become educators. McTyre was Captain of the Safety Patrol at Wingert Elementary School in Detroit and is now Associate Professor of Organizational Management at Spring Arbor University.
“Whenever I look back on the many things I’ve done in my career, I’ve always ended up becoming a leader. I often tell audiences that when I’m speaking to them, I tie it back to the Safety Patrol,” said McTyre. “Because I really had to step up and take a position of leadership and working with others, helping people to work together and dealing with conflict. At a young age, it was really a good experience.”
For many former safety patrollers, there are experiences and memories that continue to stick with them. While serving on the safety patrol at St. David’s Catholic School in Detroit, Judy Pace still clearly remembers the day that President John F. Kennedy was shot.
“It came over the PA that President Kennedy had been shot and they were sending all the kids home. All the kids were devastated, everyone was crying,” said Pace. “They (the administrators) were afraid that people would just start crossing without looking, just running across the street. So they asked the Safety Patrol to get to their posts and get everyone across the street so they could go home. And that’s what we did.”
The 2020–21 school year, different as it may be, boasts 679,000 Patrollers in 35,000 schools in the United States. Michigan has approximately 28,676 Patrollers in 940 schools across the state. The legacy doesn’t stop here, however. Over the last 100 years, interest in and excitement for the program have spread around the world. The AAA model has been adopted in at least 30 other countries, including England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
Since 1920, AAA provides various equipment and education materials to Patrollers, including reflective belts, patrol badges and training resources. To learn how to bring the AAA School Safety Patrol to your school, email: AAASchoolSafetyPatrol@acg.aaa.com.
AAA will be happy to coordinate media interview opportunities with former Patrollers Nelson Wilner, Judy Pace, Robert McTyre and one of the oldest living former Patrollers 92-year-old Dick Gettings upon request.
AAA in Michigan celebrated its 100th Anniversary - A Century of Service in 2016 and has over 1.5 million members across the state. It is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG). Connect with us on Facebook and LinkedIn.
The Auto Club Group (ACG) is the second largest AAA club in North America with more than 14 million members across 14 U.S. states, the province of Quebec and two U.S. territories. ACG and its affiliates provide members with roadside assistance, insurance products, banking and financial services, travel offerings and more. ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with more than 60 million members in the United States and Canada. AAA’s mission is to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve traffic safety. For more information, get the AAA Mobile app, visit AAA.com, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.