Children’s primary mode of independent transportation is walking. Children can walk to go to school, the park, or a friend’s house. Ensuring children are safe as pedestrians, requires special attention due to their physical size and cognitive development. Important factors in keeping child pedestrians safe are; teaching children how to safely cross the street, adult supervision, city infrastructure including sidewalks and crosswalks, as well as driver awareness.
Crossing a street presents many dangers to child pedestrians. Young children are not capable of understanding these dangers and do not develop the skills necessary for crossing a street safely until they are at least nine years of age. Children between the ages of 5 and 19 have the highest incidence rate of pedestrian-related injury compared to all other ages in Saskatchewan.
Factors that affect a child’s ability to safely cross the street include vision, hearing, physical height, mental development, and perception.
Examples of these factors are:
- A child’s peripheral vision is still developing; they have about two-thirds of the peripheral vision of an adult.
- Children are unable to detect the location or direction of a sound.
- Children have difficulty determining the speed of an oncoming vehicle.
- Children often think that if they can see a driver the driver can see them. Due to a child’s small size however, they are not easily seen by drivers and can be hidden easily by hedges or vehicles.
Walking School Bus
A Walking School Bus is a group of children (passengers) and adults (drivers) who walk to and from school along a designated and safe route. The “bus” picks up students in the morning and drops them off, in the reverse order, in the afternoon.
The program can be developed to fit the needs of the participants; as informal as two families taking turns walking their children to school or as formal as a route with designated stops, a timetable, and a regularly rotated schedule of parents and volunteers. The “bus” can run as seldom or as often as the parents want to “drive” it and as the children want to “ride it”.
Benefits of a Walking School Bus
Exercise and Health Benefits
An increase in the amount of physical activity for children during the day that is convenient and improves health. Increased physical activity decreases the risk of obesity, osteoporosis, depression and diabetes and builds a positive self-image.
Children will be part of a large, visible and supervised group when walking to school. Walking decreases the amount of traffic around school, minimizing the risk of pedestrian or traffic related injuries.
Children begin to learn safe pedestrian skills and are better equipped to deal with traffic when alone.
Children have the chance to talk and make new friends. Working together fosters a sense of community and self-confidence for both adults and children.
Walking to school reduces the amount of traffic around schools, decreases overdependence on vehicles, reduces air pollution and improves air quality.
The fresh air and exercise will “wake children up” in the morning and help them focus on schoolwork, improving concentration and learning.
Building Sense of Community
Parents and volunteers have a chance to socialize with other parents in their neighbourhood, increasing community awareness and involvement.
Walking to school decreases costs associated with vehicle use.
For more information on pedestrian safety, please visit the links below.
- Tribal School Zone Safety – Pedestrian Safety: A New Tradition (2010)
A video highlighting pedestrian safety in rural and reserve communities.
- In 2008 in Saskatchewan, 120 child pedestrians were injured or killed. (Saskatchewan Government Insurance, 2008)
- Thirty percent of all pedestrians, injured or killed in 2008 in Saskatchewan, were under the age of 15. (Saskatchewan Government Insurance, 2008)
- Saskatchewan Government Insurance. 2008 Saskatchewan Traffic Accident Facts. (2010). Retrieved from www.sgi.sk.ca