The belt color may have changed quite dramatically over the 100 years of the AAA School Safety Patrol Program — from white to neon orange to today’s fluorescent green called ‘Lectric Lime — but the mission remains the same: To provide a safer environment and leadership opportunities for millions of schoolchildren.
In honor of its centennial, let’s take a look back at how this historic program came to be and the impressive alumni it counts among its ranks.
The idea of school boy patrols began in 1920 when Charles M. Hayes, then president of the Chicago Motor Club, is credited for building the infrastructure and providing the resources so other AAA clubs across the U.S. could protect school-aged children walking to and from school.
Hayes witnessed several children at a school crossing get killed by a speeding car. After the horrific incident, Hayes pledged to help prevent such a tragedy from happening again and from that day forward Patrollers received traffic safety training designed to keep children safer to and from their way to school. Because of Hayes’s steadfast dedication, the program is now 100 years strong and continues to have a positive impact on schools, students and communities.
In the 1930s, three national organizations — AAA, the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and the National Safety Council — collaborated on Standard Rules for the Operation of School Boy Patrols. These guidelines have been updated over the years to become the operating standards for AAA School Safety Patrols.
Safety Patrol Expansion
Since its creation, the program has included 670,000 Patrollers in 35,000 schools, making it the world’s largest safety program. Today, these brave young leaders dedicate their time before and after school each day, working with teachers, supervisors, adult crossing guards and law enforcement to ensure the safety of their classmates.
“AAA School Safety Patrol plays an important role in helping young pedestrians learn and fulfill responsibilities regarding traffic safety,” said AAA Traffic Safety Advocacy and Community Impact Manager Rhonda Shah. “Millions of American children have honorably served their classmates since the program began in the early 1920s, and interest in the program has 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. The program has been praised by national and international safety and education groups for reducing deaths and injuries among 5-to-14-year-olds, the age group most at risk for pedestrian injury.
The AAA School Safety Patrol Program also teaches lifelong lessons of good citizenship, leadership and responsibility, as evident in the fact that past Patrollers have grown up to be U.S. presidents or vice presidents (Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Joe Biden), astronauts, governors, members of Congress, Supreme Court justices (William Brennan, Stephen Breyer, Warren Burger, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas) and Olympic medalists (Eric Heiden, Caitlyn Jenner — formerly known as Bruce Jenner, and Edwin Moses). Many Patrollers also now serve as educators, executives, physicians and other community leaders throughout the nation.
Did you proudly serve on AAA’s School Safety Patrol? AAA members are encouraged to submit their photos at AAA.com