Regardless of how you pronounce the word it’s that time of year again! Schools across Central Alabama are kicking off the new school year. It’s a time of excitement with first days, seeing friends again, and sharing stories from summer vacation. Another less fortunate result is increased traffic congestion. The start of the school year represents a 15% increase of vehicles on the road during morning commute.
The percentages of students commuting by bus and private automobile vary by area, but vehicles are by far the primary mode of transportation these days. Going back a few decades, approximately 50% of students nationally walked to school in 1969, but now that number is down to 13%. Further a study released this summer shows the rate of walking and biking to school for our region is 3%, the lowest of any region in the nation.
United Way of Central Alabama’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) initiative is working to create safe, convenient and fun opportunities for students to walk to school. SRTS partners with schools to educate and encourage students to walk to school; and works with cities to improve infrastructure to be more conducive for walking and biking. The initiative strives to accomplish several objectives including increased physical activity, increased safety, traffic mitigation, and improved air quality. More information is at www.saferoutesal.org.
Here are a few safety tips to remember for the start of the school year —
- Obey the speed limit in school zones
- Be alert for students walking and biking
- No texting while driving. It’s against the law and extremely dangerous
- Stop for buses, and be aware of students gathered at bus stops
- Drop your student off at the locations designated by the school, and definitely do not let your child exit your vehicle from the middle of the road