WEST VALLEY, Utah (KTVX) – Motorists driving through West Valley, Utah, may have noticed a an especially large traffic cone in the intersection near Gearld L. Wright Elementary School on Tuesday morning.

That’s Whitney Durfee.

Durfee, a crossing guard from nearby Vineyard, Utah, was turning heads and stopping cars Tuesday while dressed as a traffic cone, all in an effort to share a message about safety.

“Just to remind people that I’m here and they need to slow down,” Durfee told News 2’s sister station, KTVX. “People react really differently, a lot of smiles, a lot of laughter, and it’s been fun.”

“Every day I see people distracted. A lot of times it’s the parents,” she added. “They’re worried about getting their kids to and from school and don’t check their surroundings.”

Durfee said she sees close calls near the school almost weekly, including a recent incident where a car stopped just a foot away from her. 

Diana Harmon, another crossing guard with Gearld Elementary, was directing traffic on Tuesday morning too. She said she has almost been run over on multiple occasions.

“This year has been worse than any other year I’ve worked,” Harmon said. “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.”

According to the Utah Department of Transportation, there have been 44 fatalities on Utah roads so far in 2023, and nine 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.

Kristen Hoschouer, the Utah Department of Transportation 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.

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Durfee, who has also worked as a crossing guard at Trailside Elementary in Vineyard, believes she’s doing her part to keep the students safe.

“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,” she said. “I just really enjoy working with the kids.”