Some Wichita schools to join International Walk to School Day

10/05/2013 3:31 PM

10/05/2013 3:58 PM

More than 60 schools across Kansas, including several in Wichita, will help celebrate “Walktober” with International Walk to School Day on Wednesday.

Safe Kids Kansas Inc. is among several groups promoting the annual event as a way to encourage physical activity and teach pedestrian safety.

Officials also are reminding parents to talk to teens about the dangers of walking while being distracted by electronic devices, such as cellphones, iPods and handheld video games. Teenagers are the highest-risk group for pedestrian injuries.

Planned activities for Walk to School Day include group walks and lessons on safety. Advocates encourage parents to get out and walk along with their children.

“It is one thing to tell students about pedestrian safety, but it’s even better to show them,” said Cherie Sage of Safe Kids Kansas in a news release. “Walk with them and identify hazards, act as role models for making good choices, and give them the tools to be safer pedestrians.”

Laura Bianco, a physical education teacher at Buckner and Spaght Elementary Schools in Wichita, said many students live within a mile or two of school but still catch a ride most days rather than walking.

“With it being so nice out, we’re encouraging them to get out and walk. It gets kids out and gets them fit. It’s a different routine,” Bianco said.

“Maybe their parents will get out and walk with them that day, and maybe they’ll enjoy it. They’ll talk to their kids a little more and see what’s shaking. … And walking is great – even just a few more steps is better for the body.”

For a list of schools registered to participate in Walk to School Day, visit WalkBikeToSchool.org and click on “Who’s Walking in 2013.”

Safe Kids Kansas offers these tips to help keep your child or teenager safe wherever they walk:

• Teach and model proper pedestrian behavior. Put devices down when you are driving or walking around cars.
• From the first conversation you have with children about crossing the street, talk about the dangers of distraction. Talk to teens about putting down mobile devices while walking.
• If you need to use a cellphone, stop on the sidewalk and find a safe area to talk.
• Cross streets at a corner, using traffic signals and marked crosswalks whenever possible.
• Try to make eye contact with drivers and wait until they come to a complete stop before crossing in front of them. Do not assume that because you can see the driver, the driver can see you.
• Never cross the street between bushes or parked cars.
• Look left, right, and left again when crossing and keep looking as you cross. Don’t just rely on your ears – electric/hybrid vehicles run silently.
• Walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.
• Be alert around cars. Watch out for cars that are turning or backing up, as those drivers are likely looking at traffic and may not see you.
• Do not allow children under age 10 to cross streets alone. Adult supervision is essential until you are sure a child has good traffic skills and judgment.
• Buy clothing or accessories, such as vests, with reflective materials for your family to wear. This will help you be visible at dawn, dusk and after dark, or during other low-light situations, such as rainy or foggy weather.
• Drivers should check frequently for children when backing out of a driveway or parking space. Take a quick walk around your vehicle to look for kids, pets or other items.
• Create a walking school bus. Identify adults who are able to walk a route to school and pick up children along the way. For more information, visit www.walkingschoolbus.org.

For more information on pedestrian safety, call Safe Kids Kansas at 785-296-0351 or visit www.safekids.org or the group’s Facebook page.

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