In 2007, there were more than 100 traffic-related injuries in school zones near Ohio’s elementary and middle schools. Between 2005 and 2007, school zones also were home to more than 1,000 crashes.
In addition to school buses, more parents are back on the route to school. According to numbers from the National Highway Transportation Administration, as much as 25 percent of the typical morning rush hour traffic is school-related.
As part of the Gov. Strickland’s ongoing commitment to transportation safety, Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) will soon be accepting a new round of applications for its widely-recognized Safe Routes to School program. Last year, ODOT awarded nearly $4 million to communities across the state for school crossing signals, sidewalks, educational materials and safe school travel plans.
Not only will safer routes to school lead to fewer accidents, the hope is more children will choose to walk or bike to school. National statistics from 1969 showed that half of all students walked or bicycled to school. Today, fewer than 15 percent of all school trips are made by walking or biking. Instead, more than half of all children arrive at school in private automobiles.
More than a third of youths aged 9 to 15 live within a mile of school, but less than half of these students walk or bike even one day a week. This is a lost opportunity for students to get much-needed physical activity and to learn more about their neighbors and the community, according to ODOT.
Here are some tips for walking safely to school:
• Walk together — Younger children should always walk with an adult. Obey traffic signs, signals and adult school crossing guards.
• Avoid short cuts — Parents should pick a safe route to school; students should always stick to the route. Shortcuts can be more dangerous. Never hitchhike or take rides from people not arranged by your parents.
• See and be seen — Drivers may not be able to see you well. Always wear bright-colored clothes and if it is dark, carry flashlights. Look for drivers in parked cars. They may be getting ready to move.
• Be a walking role model — Children learn through experience. Walking with parents or another caregiver is an important way for children to practice crossing real streets and picking safe places to walk. As a parent, you should decide when your child has the skills and experience to deal with traffic safely without you.
Walking and bicycling to school can be low-cost alternatives to bus service. School districts across the country are feeling the strain on school transportation budgets as a result of increased fuel prices. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, student transportation is the third largest budget item for elementary and secondary education.
For more information on ODOT’s Safe Routes to School program, visit www.dot.state.oh.us/Divisions/Local/Projects/SafeRoutes/. To learn more tips for getting to school safely, go to www.saferoutesinfo.org.