Schools participate in international walking event
When hundreds of Idaho children left their homes Wednesday for a regular walk or bike ride to school, they were uncharacteristically joined by a band of adults. Together they shared foresook motorized transportation and using their own energy to reach the school grounds.
The international event is used as an educational experience in which adults provide firsthand tips on safely walking to and from school. But there are a number of related benefits for children. The annual event also:
Idahos participation also focuses attention on the need to create and maintain safe routes to schools, a topic that surfaced in the Legislature last year and likely will return to consideration as a formally, funded program in the next session.
We want to reinforce the many advantages of riding or bicycling to school, but to also emphasize the measures children and parents should take to make the journey safely, explains Josephine OConnor of the Idaho Office of Traffic and Highway Safety (OTHS). If children and parents take basic precautions, they can reduce risks and help prevent tragic encounters with vehicles.
Last year 57 Idaho children between the ages of 4 and 14 were injured in pedestrian crashes; another 110 were involved in bicycle-vehicle collisions.
Ninety-nine percent of the bicyclists received some form of injury, according to OTHS. Although bike helmets are effective in preventing 85 percent of the head injuries, only 15 percent of the bicyclists invovled in crashes last year used the protective head gear.
"Until about age 10, most kids haven't developed the skills to safely cope with traffic," said OConnor explains. "They typically act on impulse, they can't judge car speed very well, and they assume that if they see you in a car, you can see them."
The Walk to School Day was organized in 1994 in Hertfordshire Council, Great Britain. Three years later it was introduced in the United States by the Partnership for a Walkable America with an event in Chicago; another followed later in the year in Los Angeles. The initiative received its own designated week in the U.S. the same year. More than 170,000 Americans from 58 communities participated the following year.
Children and adults around the globe not participate. Last year an estimated 3 million walkers from 29 countries participated on Oct. 8.
The campaign is beginning to gain momentum in Idaho. On Wednesday (Oct. 6), 13 schools organized special walking events, nearly double the number involved last year. Moscow was the best represented Idaho city this year, with four participating schools: West Park Elementary, Russell Elementary School, Lena Whitmore Elementary and McDonald Elementary. Other participating schools included:
Boise: Pioneer Elementary, Trail Wind Elementary,
Monroe Elementary; Sandpoint:
For more information abut the international event, see http://www.iwalktoschool.org