Parents, it’s time for some real talk--is there anything worse than the school car rider line? It’s a microcosm of the worst traffic jam you’ve been stuck in, and it happens every day. Twice a day! Maybe you’re one of the lucky ones and your school has a functional, speedy drop-off system, but parents on social media hilariously suggest that’s not the norm.
Not only is the school drop-off line a test of anyone’s patience, it’s not even the best way to get kids to and from school. Each October, schools around the country participate in Walk, Bike and Roll to School Day. Why? Keep reading to find out.
Why is it good to walk to school?
While the car rider line drama is certainly up there, it’s only one of the reasons walking to school is a good idea.
- It’s better for the environment! Of course, the fewer vehicles we have on the roads, the better.
- Walking makes for easier commutes. When kids are walking to school, parents and caregivers aren’t adding additional vehicles on the roadway. Everyone gets to their destination a little faster!
- Walking is inexpensive. Everything costs more these days, especially gas. Walking to school even once or twice a week can help you save money you’d otherwise spend at the gas station.
- Make new friends! Adults and kids alike can benefit from walking to school because it’s a great way to make new friends in your neighborhood that you normally wouldn’t see while stuck in your cars in the drop-off line. Parents can walk to and from school together to keep an eye on their kids and to make good conversation with other adults.
- Fresh air and exercise is a great way for any of us to start our day. Kids are more alert after a nice walk.
When can kids walk to school?
In general, children shouldn’t walk to school without adult supervision until they are at least ten years old, though this will vary depending on the child, neighborhood, and other factors.
One of the ways communities help keep kids safe on their walk to school is by forming walking school buses! A walking school bus is just like a regular school bus, but the bus "driver" is a bus "walker!"
Walking school buses require no additional funding when parents and staff members volunteer to lead the walking school bus a few times a week. These programs have the potential to increase activity levels, teach kids about traffic safety, and provide strong community support. The National Center for Safe Routes to School provides a helpful guide for those interested in starting a Walking School Bus program in their community.
Safety Tips for Walkers
Safety is a huge concern when it comes to children walking to school. In 2020, there were 177 child pedestrians killed in traffic crashes. Another 5,223 child pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes that year.
Seventy-eight percent of these happened in urban areas, and the majority of child pedestrians were killed during daylight hours.
These are some scary statistics. Children need to learn about traffic safety early and often. Here are some safety tips to go over with your kids:
- Make sure children have appropriate supervision when walking to school. If your child is old enough to walk without an adult, make sure they’re still walking with a group of other children.
- Only cross the street at an intersection or marked pedestrian crosswalk.
- Teach children to follow the instructions of route leaders and crossing guards. Make sure they’re using their "listening ears!"
- Use the sidewalk. Do not teach children that it’s okay to cross in the middle of the street, even if you’re there to cross it with them. If they think it’s okay to cross in the middle of the street with an adult, they’re more likely to cross in the middle of the street on their own.
- Never stand in the street when waiting to cross or waiting for the school bus. Stand on the sidewalk or as far back from the street as possible while waiting to cross.
Get involved in your community! Safe sidewalks, accessible pedestrian signals at intersections, and well-maintained walking routes are just a few ways communities can get together to help kids walk to school safely.
Safety Tips for Drivers
Kids can be unpredictable and impulsive. Sure, it’s easy to stop at an intersection and let pedestrians cross, but 62% of child pedestrians were killed at locations other than intersections in 2020. Drivers need to pay more attention and be ready to stop at any point when children are around.
Here are some safety tips for drivers:
- Know and follow the school bus laws in your state. An average of 113 people were killed in school-transportation-related crashes from 2011 to 2020. While school bus laws are pretty consistent throughout the country, there are some small differences depending on your state. Check out our guide to school bus laws by state here.
- Never drive distracted in school zones or any area where children may be present.
- Children have a narrower field of vision than adults, which means they may not always see your vehicle approaching. Never assume children will see you or even pay attention to you at all.
- Children also have a harder time judging a car’s speed and distance. They are more likely to dart in front of you thinking they have plenty of time. Slow down and be ready to stop.
- Don’t assume an adult will grab a child in time. Just because there are adults around doesn’t mean a kid won’t run into the street with no warning, and it’s up to you to make sure you’re paying attention and ready for anything that could happen.
Together, we can make walking to school a healthy and safe part of the experience of growing up.
Want to learn more?
Are you looking for defensive driving and traffic school courses? Do you want a discount on your auto insurance? Are you a mature driver interested in a discount on your auto insurance? Do you have a teen who’s ready to take an online driver education course?
Safe2Drive is here to help! We offer convenient online courses for drivers of any age! Visit our website today to learn about the online courses we offer in your state.