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Hundreds of children learn pedestrian safety with International Walk to School Day event



RENO, Nev. – Thirteen Washoe County elementary schools, along with Safe Kids Washoe County and Safe Routes to School, will participate in International Walk To School Day on Wednesday, Oct. 6, to help promote safe behavior for child pedestrians walking to and from school. Participating elementary schools include: Esther Bennett; Caughlin Ranch; Glenn Duncan; Jesse Hall; Elizabeth Lenz; Virginia Palmer; Lois Allen; Roy Gomm; Jerry Whitehead; Marvin Moss; Greenbrae; Katherine Dunn; and Sun Valley.

“Parents and caregivers need to teach children safe behaviors and drivers must be aware and on the lookout for children on or near the road,” said Melissa Krall, Sake Kids Washoe County coordinator. “Walking is an important and healthy activity but everyone needs to do their part to keep this activity safe for kids. And while most of us would expect drivers to be alert and careful in and around schools, research from Safe Kids shows one out of every six drivers in school zones is distracted. Typical distractions include the use of cell phones, eating, drinking, smoking, reaching behind, grooming and reading. This makes improving pedestrian safety in school areas particularly vital.”

Walk To School Day is a culmination of a variety of activities including morning safety announcements, school assemblies and safety poster contests that were made possible through the efforts of dedicated teachers, parent volunteers and non-profit workers. Law enforcement from Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Washoe County School Police and the cities of Reno and Sparks will be patrolling for pedestrian safety enforcement.

Safe Kids Washoe County, an organization working to prevent accidental childhood injuries, will celebrate its 11th annual Walk This Way pedestrian event this year, sponsored nationally by Fed Ex, in conjunction with International Walk To School Day. The 2010 event also marks the two-year anniversary of the introduction of the Safe Routes to School program that was established through a cooperative partnership to encourage and enable Washoe County children to walk and bike to school safely.

In addition to pedestrian safety, Safe Routes to School focuses on improving the health of elementary school-aged children as statistics show childhood obesity rates have more than tripled in the past 30 years, while the number of children walking and biking to school has declined. Walk to School events work to create safer routes for walking and bicycling and emphasize the importance of issues such as increasing physical activity among children, pedestrian safety, traffic congestion, concern for the environment and building connections between families, schools and the broader community.

Safe Routes to School is a federal program resulting in a $790,000 grant from the Nevada State Department of Transportation (NDOT). Partners in the Safe Routes to School program include: Washoe County School District Administration; Washoe County School District Police; Kiwanis Bikes Program; Washoe County District Health Department; Safe Kids Washoe County, Washoe County Air Quality Management; Washoe County Sheriff’s Office; and the Department of Public Safety – Office of Traffic Safety.

Each year in the United States nearly 250 children are killed and 13,000 treated in emergency rooms as a result of pedestrian injuries.  According to injury statistics, African-American children, male children, children living in high density areas and children residing in low-income households are most at-risk for these types of injuries.  Between 2000 and 2009, the number of child pedestrian fatalities has decreased by 49 percent, with the 4- to 7-year-old age group showing the largest decrease (58 percent).  However, distracted driving in school zones continues to be an issue.

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