Planning for Safe Schools: Impacts of School Siting and Surrounding Environments on Traffic Safety

When planning for development around a school, a low-speed-road environment more than two miles away from highways, with less auto-centric commercial use, and safer pedestrian infrastructure around transit stops is preferred to minimize pedestrian crashes.


  • Traffic exposure and population density were positively associated with motorist and pedestrian crash rates.
  • Higher percentages of sidewalk coverage were associated with lower rates of pedestrian crashes.
  • Highways located within the 1 and 1.5-mile straight-line school buffers were significantly associated with greater pedestrian crashes.
  • Local roads were found to have less pedestrian crashes within all buffer zones.
  • A higher percentage of commercial uses were associated with more motorist and pedestrian crashes, which is likely due to the increase of vehicle and pedestrian conflict.
  • Transit stops in each buffer zone were significantly positively associated with pedestrian crashes, again likely due to greater pedestrian and motor vehicle conflict and perhaps poor pedestrian design.


  • This study analyzes the impact of school siting and neighborhood design on crash rates at and around 120 public schools (77 elementary schools, 24 middle schools, and 19 high schools) in the Austin Independent School District, Texas. The predictor variable is the built environment surrounding the schools, while risk exposure, including school types and traffic exposure (vehicle miles traveled/mile of street), and neighborhood sociodemographic characteristics are confounding variables. The outcome variable is the number of pedestrian and motorist crashes per unit of street length, respectively. 0.5-, 1-, 1.5-, and 2-mile straight-line buffers around the school parcel were identified as spatial units of analysis.

Yu, C. and Zhu, X. (2016). Planning for Safe Schools: Impacts of School Siting and Surrounding Environments on Traffic Safety. Journal of Planning Education and Research (2016) 36:4, 476-486.

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