Although walking is the most common form of physical activity in the U.S., according to America Walks, only about 13 percent of children walk to school while parents driving students to school account for about 20 percent to 30 percent of morning traffic congestion in cities.
If you want to get healthier and/or save on your fuel costs this year, walking to school may be up your alley.
Because walking to school is no longer common place, drivers aren’t always as careful as they once were. To avoid injury or worse, Public Affairs Officer with the Springfield Police Department Lisa Cox offers these safety tips for walking to school:
- Plan a safe route for your children to take to school, and walk it with your child so you’ll know that they’re comfortable with it. Also plan an alternate route in case it should become necessary.
- Avoid planning the route too close to parks, vacant lots, fields and places where there aren’t many people around.
Springfield offers maps of safe routes to walk to school online at: www.springfieldmo.gov/traffic/school.html Other districts may also be able to advise on the safest routes; check with the school’s public safety officer, or equivalent.
In addition, Cox says, “Whenever possible, it’s best to walk with other children.”
Walkingschoolbus.org offers ideas on how to start a walking school bus—basically “a carpool without a car,” including finding families nearby that may want to participate. There is no magic age on when your child is ready to walk to school alone, though the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does provide guidelines on how many adults should accompany groups such as a walking, or biking, school bus.
The CDC recommends a 1:3 adult-to-child ratio for walking with children 4 years to 6 years old and a 1:6 ratio for older children. Even fewer adults may be needed for tweens 10 years old and older. Officer Cox offers these additional back-to-school safety tips:
- Be sure that your children know their address, phone number and a work number for Mom or Dad. Also be sure the child knows how and when to use 911.
- If your child will be home alone after school, make sure that he/she calls you or a designated contact person as soon as they arrive home. Also make sure the child knows not to use the stove or any other appliance that could cause injury.
- Make sure your children are comfortable talking to you about anything that makes them feel uneasy or uncomfortable while away from home, such as persons acting suspicious on their way to and from school or if they feel bullied by other children.
- And as always, when driving, pay very close attention to children who may not be paying attention to you. Also obey speed limits in school zones and stop for loading and unloading school buses.
October 8 is National Walk to School Day this year. Walking School Bus says this may be perfect timing to introduce a new walking school bus.
Even if you don’t have the need to practice safe walking habits to-and-from school, chances are you’ll need them for Halloween.
“However, roughly four times as many children aged 5 – 14 are killed while walking on Halloween evening compared with other evenings of the year, and falls are a leading cause of injuries among children on Halloween.”
Cox says parents can help prevent children from getting injured on Halloween by following these safety tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Safety Council:
- Go only to well-lit houses and remain on porches rather than entering houses.
- Travel in small groups and be accompanied by an adult.
- Know their phone numbers and carry coins for emergency phone calls.
- Have their names and addresses attached to their costumes.
- Bring treats home before eating them so parents can inspect them.
- Use costume knives and swords that are flexible, not rigid or sharp.
When walking in neighborhoods, they should:
- Use flashlights, stay on sidewalks and avoid crossing yards.
- Cross streets at the corner, use crosswalks if available, and don’t cross between parked cars.
- Stop at all corners and stay together in a group before crossing.
- Wear clothing that is bright, reflective, and flame retardant.
- Consider using face paint instead of masks.
- Avoid wearing hats that could slide over their eyes.
- Avoid wearing long, baggy, or loose costumes or oversized shoes to prevent tripping.
- Always look left, right and left again before crossing the street.
Parents and adults should:
- Supervise the outing for children under age 12.
- Establish a curfew for older children.
- Prepare homes for trick-or-treaters by clearing porches, lawns, and sidewalks and by placing decorations away from doorways and landings.
- Avoid giving choking hazards such as gum, peanuts, hard candies or small toys as treats to young children.
- Inspect all candy before children eat it.
To ensure the safety of pedestrian trick-or-treaters, parents and adults should:
- Make sure children under age 10 are supervised as they cross the street.
- Drive slowly.
- Watch for children in the street and on medians.
- Exit driveways and alleyways carefully.
- Have children get out of cars on the curbside, not the traffic side.
Find details for local Trunk-or-Treating events and other Fall festivities on our website. www.fromournestmag.com/events