It’s hard to focus on increasing physical activity when the people you are working with are afraid to cross the street! Over the past 18 months, we were fortunate to receive funding from Active Living Research (www.activelivingresearch.com), a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (www.rwjf.org) to focus on getting children to actively commute to school (walking, biking, hopping, skipping—anything except motorized transportation).
To plan our study, we interviewed parents, teachers, and kids about their knowledge, attitudes, and beliefs about active commuting to school. Most of the concerns related to safety and distance. We created a super cool (we think!) video that focused on teaching kids to commute safely. We were doing well with the study—kids were walking and getting physical activity and everyone was happy.
We forgot one thing….while we were busy focusing on teaching the kids the rules of the road, we forgot to teach the drivers. During our study, we saw reports of at least two children in our area who were hit by cars attempting to go around stopped school buses. One middle school student, Hasani Wesley, was struck and killed.
I was pleased to see the focus on safety in this week’s Winston-Salem Journal (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/article_dc53a100-12aa-11e3-905e-001a4bcf6878.html). Front page news—with diagrams—about safety, the NC laws on stopping for a school bus, and stiffer penalties for drivers caught illegally passing a school bus. I was shocked to see the number of violates by drivers. Bus drivers in 17 NC school districts were asked to observe and report the number of cars that illegally passed stopped buses for one day in 2012 and one day in 2013. On each of those day, bus drivers observed over 3,200 vehicles that illegally passed a stopped bus. ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!? Do people just not know they are supposed to stop when school buses are stopped? The stop sign and flashing red lights should clue you in! Do they just not care?? Is where they are going really so important that they can’t wait 30 seconds for a child to get on the bus?
I applaud the Winston-Salem Journal for making this issue front page news. As our children go back to school, let’s help keep them safe. Obey the laws of the road and watch out for buses and little ones crossing the street. Our children are the future—let’s help make sure they have one.
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This post was written by Melicia Whitt-Glover