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

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Fourteen 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. 5to help promote safe behavior for child pedestrians walking to and from school. Participating elementary schools include: Esther Bennett; Caughlin Ranch; Glenn Duncan; Jesse Hall; Stead; Marvin Moss; Kate Smith; Bernice Mathews; Greenbrae; Katherine Dunn; Hidden Valley; Mount Rose; Grace Warner; and Anderson. Volunteers will walk to school with students to identify unsafe intersections, streets needing sidewalks, and dangerous areas where pedestrians have either been hit or nearly injured by a motor vehicle.

“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. 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.

“This is an energizing event, reminding everyone of the uncomplicated joy of walking to school, the health benefits of regular daily activity, and the need for safe places to walk and bike,” said MJ Cloud, Safe Routes To School Coordinator. “This is the perfect opportunity for students to learn how to remain injury-free as they walk to and from school.”

According to the National Center for Health Statistics, road traffic injuries are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14 worldwide.  While the number of child pedestrians injured in traffic crashes are decreasing in the United States, in 2009, more than 13,000 children, ages 14 and under went to the emergency room and 244 children died from pedestrian-related injuries

Safe Kids Washoe County, an organization working to prevent accidental childhood injuries, will celebrate its 12th annual Walk This Way pedestrian event this year, sponsored nationally by Fed Ex, in conjunction with International Walk To School Day. The 2011 event also marks the third 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.

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