NYPD’s Back-to-School Street Safety Tips: The Good, the Bad, and the “Huh?”

It’s back-to-school time, and NYPD has some advice for drivers. Image: NYPD

Occasional tweets (and actual policing) aside, NYPD has gotten savvier with its traffic safety messages under Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton. For the start of school, the police blasted out information aimed at both drivers and kids. While there’s room for improvement, it’s a step up from some of the department’s previous traffic safety tips.

The latest round of street safety information began popping up on NYPD Twitter accounts in the final days of August as city agencies began sending out material for the start of the school year. The information for drivers is about as spot-on as one could hope for, with explanations of how to drive safely near school buses, as well as reminders to keep an eye out for kids and to not block crosswalks. The flyer also includes an admonition against revving the engine or honking to intimidate children crossing the street, something that’s not a tip so much as a marker of basic human decency.

The messages for kids are a bit less complex, focusing on obeying traffic signals and crossing at the intersections. Image: NYPD
These tips are a bit less complex, focusing on obeying traffic signals and crossing at the intersections. Image: NYPD

The department also produced a more traditional traffic safety message using kid-friendly graphics to stress rules for pedestrians. The benefit of focusing education on children is questionable when the real danger is a driver behind the wheel of a high-speed, multi-ton vehicle — so it’s appropriate that this flyer, which many parents are surely going to see, includes some directives for motorists too.

DOT said it did not advise NYPD on these particular street safety messages. For its part, the Department of Education said it provides the following tips to parents:

Safety Tips for Students Walking to School or a Bus Stop

  • Always walk in groups and know the safest route. Never take shortcuts.
  • Plan a walking route to school or the bus stop. Choose the most direct way with the fewest street crossings and use intersections with crossing guards. Test the route. Stay away from parks, vacant lots, fields, and other places where there aren’t many people around.
  • Cross the street in a designated crosswalk. Be extra careful in rainy, foggy, or snowy weather.
  • Always look left, then right, then left again before crossing a street and allow enough time to cross the street safely.
  • Know your home phone number and address, parent/guardians’ work numbers, the number of another trusted adult, and how to use 911 for emergencies. Have enough change to make a phone call or carry a telephone calling card. Never talk to strangers or accept rides or gifts from strangers.

DOE also directs parents to the DOT website, which offers maps showing traffic lights, stop signs, crosswalks, and traffic calming near each school. Parents can either download the map online or pick up a copy at their child’s school.

NYPD, which has not responded to questions about its back-to-school safety campaign, also released this final image. We’re not quite sure what to make of it.

  • Eric McClure

    Glad to see NYPD getting smarter and more Vizion Zero-ey with its safety literature. The motorist safety tips are really good – now if we can just get drivers to take them to heart.

    As for the kid-focused tips, in NYPD’s defense, no one, eight or 80 or anyone in between, should ever assume that drivers will obey the law. Still, there’s room for improvement in the messaging, but they’ve come a long way.

  • BBnet3000

    I saw a “schools open, drive safely” sign the other day and I was thinking “aren’t the kids out and about in the streets more in the summer?”

  • HamTech87

    Love the “Don’t Honk” advice to motorists. Wish they would adhere to this when around a scared adult, too. Its not like I would do any better than a child getting run over by a multi-ton vehicle.

  • Reader

    Actually, given the speed at which I’ve seen some bus drivers race down streets, even when their buses are filled with kids, that image seems about right.

  • qrt145

    The final image clearly shows that the NYPD condones unsafe overcrowding of school buses, with students standing in the middle of the bus or next to the driver, or leaning out the window! 🙂

    (Not to mention driving the bus tilted sideways on two wheels like Timothy Dalton drove a truck in License to Kill.)

  • Eric McClure

    Not in the fancy neighborhoods.

  • Bolwerk

    Oh well, those are the conditions on transit buses and subways, which most kids should probably be on anyway.

  • Jeff

    Honking is perhaps one of the more obnoxious things they do. Whenever I start to build up a shred of respect for the motoring population and I hear that vile noise, which sounds like a toddler throwing a temper tantrum that can be heard by people for blocks–both inside buildings and out, thousands of people in densely-populated areas–all of that respect fades away.

  • Kevin Love

    Anyone else notice what is missing? What we are not seeing?

    I don’t see any children cycling to school in any of this material. There is no advice to car drivers on the subject of safely yielding to child cyclists. There is no advice to children on cycling to school. No advice on street safety. No advice on bicycle security and locking the bike safely. Nothing. Bikes were just airbrushed out of these children’s lives.

    Looks like NYPD hired Dorothy Rabinowitz.

  • Emmily_Litella

    Dissapointing. Kind of through with anger.

  • Look out!

  • I agree that it’s an improvement for NYPD to even address the people doing the killing (motorists), but I’m not sure that the focus on their driving behavior around school buses makes much sense for New York. Is that where most children are run over, while exiting big yellow buses? I doubt it.

  • Not a car

    When they start posting the new 25mph signs on roadways entering the city, could we have a “horns are for highways, it’s rude to use them near pedestrians” kind of message posted ase well? When you visit NYC or watch movies set here, the honking cab is a tell tale part of the hustle and bustle of the big city. When you live and walk here, that assh@#$ honking because the light has been green for 0.2 seconds already and nobody’s moving further into gridlock yet is a real quality of life downer. STFU already! Addressing horn honking and the vast amount of space dedicated to on-street parking should be significant parts of Vision Zero. These things obviously aren’t as important as speeding and failure to yield, but they are intrinsically tied to the hegemony of the automobile. Telling motorists to “be quiet” and “find a place off of the street to store your personal property” in NYC are messages that support and reinforce things like slow zones.

  • JDC

    If you’re the kind of person who honks or revs their engine to scare children, reading a flyer that gently suggests not doing so probably isn’t going to change your behavior.

  • If you’re the kind of person who revs your engine or honks at kids I cannot comprehend why we as a society allow you to drive a motor vehicle.

  • Unfortunately, society has decided to give out driver’s licences essentially for the asking, with no meaningful test of capability.

    In a sane society, a driver’s test would be one which only a small fraction of people could pass, only after much training. It should be similar to obtaining a pilot’s licence. Driving would then properly be a seen as a skill which can be entrusted only to a small cadre of highly-trained professionals.

    However, this is not a sane society, but a terribly sick one. And we are stuck with the consequences our unwise policy with respect to driving. These consequences include roads dominated by deadly incompetents; runaway pollution; the disgusting phenomenon of suburbia; and the entrenchment in the public mind of driving as a right rather than a privilege, and of the personal auto as an entitlement.

    It’s depressing to understand that the best we can do is to fight the symptoms here and there, as the disease proceeds unchecked.

  • Joe R.

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. What we’re doing here is like fighting Ebola with aspirin, rather than looking for a real cure. I hope in the remainder of my life we’ll at least get a handle on ending this tragic episode in the history of humanity.

  • They took down the $350 Fine for Honking signs after not enforcing them billions of times.


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