As adviser to the AAA School Safety Patrol at Martin Elementary in South San Francisco, Deborah Carlino trains and organizes 30 students to help their peers get to school safely. One day not long ago, her team used what they’d learned to protect an older member of the community.
After a driver pulled into the drop-off zone in front of the school, his wife stepped from the car and toward the sidewalk. She stumbled on the curb, fell, and hit her head on the ground.
Carlino’s patrollers mobilized immediately. Some formed a protective circle around the woman. Others diverted traffic so emergency personnel would have easier access when they arrived. When adults suggested moving the woman to make her more comfortable, patrollers reminded them that moving a victim can exacerbate injuries—and she stayed put. Para-medics soon arrived and transported the woman to the hospital.
That incident, for which Carlino’s team was awarded a Lifesaving Medal from AAA, is just one example of how important the AAA School Safety Patrol program continues to be a century after its founding.
The program was born in 1920, the brainchild of Charles M. Hayes, president of the Chicago Motor Club. Like many early automotive groups, that club—which became a chapter of AAA—was primarily a forum for driving enthusiasts. But it took on a more serious mission after Hayes witnessed a speeding car fatally strike several children in a school crossing.
Horrified, he began advocating for programs that would help students get to and from school safely, training cadres of young patrollers who would encourage others to be safe pedestrians. His efforts eventually became the AAA School Safety Patrol.
Today, it’s the largest school-based safety program in the world, with more than 679,000 patrollers in 35,000 schools across 30 countries, including the United States. At street crossings near schools, the students help others cross safely while an adult crossing guard deals with vehicles.
The AAA School Safety Patrol program turned 100 last year, but the celebration was postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic. AAA continues to get the word out about the patrols with the support of volunteers like teacher Deborah Carlino, who is now the national spokesperson.