Pressing the HAWK light button while cars whipped past her, Margaret Gomez eagerly talked to parents waiting to pick up their kids at Bonillas Traditional Magnet School.
With cars coming to a halt, she led parents across the street. She then guided kids who were on the other side of the street with a bright red STOP sign held up in the air.
I got to know them and ya, so its been pretty good.the parents, the schools staff, neighborhood people, Gomez said.
Shes been a crossing guard on the corner of 17th and Winsett Streets for about three years. On Thursday, she eagerly welcomed back students with a smile on her face.
We keep our kids safe. When theyre crossing the street we push our HAWK light, she said.
That HAWK light flashes yellow at first then flashes red. Gomez will push the button and it will alert drivers to people crossing the streets.
The main thing that we want the kids to pay attention to when we cross them are those HAWK lights are going and that the cars have stopped, Gomez said.
However, she said as many as 3 out of 5 cars dont stop, and that can be dangerous for kids who are crossing the street.
Sometimes they dont pay attention and theyll start crossing but thats why we try and get ahead of them first, she said.
In 2021, the Tucson Police Department said 41 people had violations for not paying attention to flashing signals. In 2022 that number dropped to 28 and so far in 2023, there have been 25 people who have violated flashing signals laws.
Alerting drivers to laws is why its important for TUSD to have the proper amount of crossing guards, but theyre currently short 22. They increased the pay to $15.45 an hour to attract more crossing guards.
Luis Melendez has been a crossing guard for TUSD for about 7 years and has noticed distracted driving is a problem. He said a lot of people use their phones while driving, but he also sees a lot of people J-walking.
Its too much effort for them to come to the crosswalk and so therefore theyll just cross right in front, Melendez said.
Thats why crossing guards like Melendez and Gomez are reminding people that theyre not allowed to drive past 15 miles per hour in a school zone.
At the end of the day, their priority is the safety of the kids and people crossing the street.
I find it very rewarding in doing this and this is why maybe Ive stuck in doing this, Melendez said.