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How Walking To School Can Keep Your Child Safe From Pedestrian Crashes This Fall

Oct 9, 2020, 8:29 PM | Updated: Nov 3, 2023, 4:09 pm

KAYSVILLE, Utah – Pedestrian crashes and fatalities typically increase during the fall in Utah.

No matter what your child’s learning experience looks like this fall, it’s important to teach them how to be safe on Utah roads.

Many kids walk to school, but Seth and Brett Borland choose instead to ride their scooters.

“We have a little downhill on the way home. So coming to school is not fun, but the downhill on the way home is awesome,” their mom Jennifer Borland said laughing.

Regardless of the method, Kristen Hoschouer, safety outreach administrator with the Utah Department of Transportation encouraged students to walk, bike or even scooter to school rather than drive to reduce the number of cars on Utah roads.

She said the risk of pedestrian crashes and fatalities decreases with fewer cars on the road.

“If all the kids are walking then there won’t be very many cars around the school and so we don’t have to worry as much,” she explained.

But Hoschouer said it must be done safely. She urged students to walk on sidewalks and only cross at designated crosswalks after the crossing guard tells them it’s safe.

“If there isn’t a sidewalk, walk on the left-hand side of the road so they can see oncoming traffic,” Hoschouer said.

It requires the attention of both pedestrians and drivers.

“If we’re going down a hill and are about to cross the street, we stop and look for the cars if there’s a stop sign,” Seth described. “Always be looking for kids,” Hoschouer reminded drivers. “Definitely be attentive, especially around a school and be ready to stop. Drive slow!”

For most of the year, Utah sees anywhere from one to three fatalities a month. But Hoschouer said pedestrian fatalities typically increase from September through December.

“In [the] fall, we have four or more fatalities a month, and that’s about a 47% increase in fatalities … in the fall months,” she said.

Hoschouer urged students to wear a helmet when they are riding a bike or scooter and wear reflective gear if they’re walking in the dark. She emphasizes the importance of this especially when the sun starts to rise later and set earlier.

Jennifer’s kids have been walking or riding scooters to school for about five years now, but at first, she was nervous to send them on their own.

“We walked it together quite a few times until I felt comfortable,” she said. She sends them with other friends riding their bikes or scooters.

“If you’re concerned about your kid getting to school, make a group have one parent a week, take the group to school,” Hoschouer suggested.

For her family, Jennifer said there are clear benefits to walking to school.

“So, when they’re active, they’re happier. They’re with their friends, so they’re social.” Jennifer said.

“I get to avoid the traffic — that’s a plus,” she said. It makes for a less stressful morning.

Best of all, it allows for quality time together as a family.

“I like it when I walk with them too because we’ll chat and we’ll talk,” Jennifer said.

In addition to wearing a helmet and staying on the sidewalk, Seth and Brett have one message for their fellow classmates: Have fun!

To find the safest walking route to your child’s school, visit saferoutes.utah.gov.

If your school isn’t listed online, Hoschouer said you can ask your school administration for a map.

Your student can also participate in the monthly “Walk and Roll Challenge” where they get rewarded for walking, biking or scootering to school.

If your child is participating in online school, they can still enter the competition by walking or biking for at least 20 minutes.

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How Walking To School Can Keep Your Child Safe From Pedestrian Crashes This Fall