WEST VALLEY, Utah (ABC4) — If you were driving around Gearld L Wright Elementary School Tuesday morning, you might have noticed something big, bright and orange.
Whitney Durfee, a crossing guard from Vineyard, was turning heads and stopping cars Tuesday as she was dressed as a traffic cone to share a message about safety.
“Just to remind people that I’m here and they need to slow down. People react really differently, a lot of smiles, a lot of laughter, and it’s been fun,” Durfee said.
As Durfee helps kids cross the road, they can hear her cheerful voice saying “Good morning!” and see how much love she has for her job. She has worked as a crossing guard with Trailside Elementary School for two years.
“I really love seeing the kids every morning. They all have their own story. They all have different personalities, and it’s fun to talk to them and be that bright spot in their day. I just really enjoy working with the kids,” she said.
According to the Utah Department of Transportation, there have been 44 fatalities on Utah roads so far in 2023, and 9 of them involved pedestrians. While none occurred in a school zone, Durfee still wants to remind drivers to slow down and look out when walking near crosswalks.
“Every day I see people distracted. A lot of times it’s the parents. They’re worried about getting their kids to and from school and don’t check their surroundings,” she said.
Durfee shared that she sees close calls almost weekly, including a recent one where a car stopped just a foot away from her.
Diana Harmon, a crossing guard with Gearld Elementary, was out there in the morning too, and said she had been almost run over on multiple occasions.
“This year has been worse than any other year I’ve worked. I’ve worked for seven years. I think that drivers are extremely distracted. They’re on their phones texting. They’re just not paying attention,” Harmon said.
Kristen Hoschouer, the UDOT safety outreach administrator, says there were 54 pedestrian deaths on Utah roads last year.
“That was a high we haven’t seen in a very long time, so this is one reason we want to focus on it this year,” she said.