Safe on the Walk to School

Pedestrian injuries decreasing since Safe Routes to School program was implemented

(RxWiki News) With drivers whizzing by, or driving up sidewalks like an Ohio woman did last November, parents may worry about their kids' safety when they walk to school. But no fear: the Safe Routes to School program has helped.

A recently published study showed that the number of pedestrian injuries as a result of being hit by a car in New York has gone down since the program's start.

The findings may help concerned families feel more at ease and keep kids active as they head to school.

"Walk with your child to school."

The US Congress set aside $612 million in 2005 for the Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program in New York City, which was designed to help kids walk and bike to school safely.

Researchers, led by Charles DiMaggio, PhD, MPH, associate professor of epidemiology and research director of the Center for Injury Epidemiology and Prevention at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York, looked at nearly 169,000 young pedestrian injuries involving motor vehicles which occurred between 2001 and 2010.

Data was gathered from New York's Department of Transportation. Researchers calculated how often pedestrians were injured and tracked their age.

Incidents that occurred during the times kids go to and leave school, which was from 7 to 9 am, and 2 to 4 pm, were accounted for.

Among school-age children, researchers found that pedestrian injuries decreased 33 percent each year during the study period. The percentage of injuries also decreased 14 percent among both adults older than 19 and children younger than 5.

Before Safe Routes began, 8 out of 10,000 kids and teens were injured while walking and biking to school between 2001 and 2008.

After the program started, the number of injuries decreased to 4.4 out of 10,000 among the kids. Among other age groups, the injury rate stayed stable.

The largest decline in number of injuries occurred among kids between 5 and 9 years of age.

Overall, 4,760 pedestrian injuries occurred during school travel hours over the 10-year study period.

Researchers wrote in their report that traffic speed and volume as well as the lack of sidewalks are the most common barriers to walking and riding to school.

"If SRTS interventions indeed increase walking and bicycling in school-aged children, the results in our study are likely conservative estimates of the actual effect on pedestrian injury risk," researchers said.

The authors noted that the program might not be the only reason for the decline in injuries, since the number of injuries started to go down before the program was in full swing.

Further, changes in the demographic and socioeconomic well-being of the participants may be skewing the results.

The CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the National Institute of Health and the National Institute on Drug Abuse supported the study, which was published online January 14 in the journal Pediatrics. No conflicts of interest were reported.

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Review Date: 
January 18, 2013