Safe Routes to School
What is Safe Routes to School?
Safe Routes to School (SRTS) is an international movement that has been implemented in communities throughout the United States. The concept is to increase the number of children who walk or bicycle to school safely by funding projects that remove the barriers that currently prevent them from doing so. Those barriers include a lack of infrastructure, unsafe infrastructure and a lack of programs that promote walking and bicycling through education/encouragement programs aimed at children, parents, and the community.
How does Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego fit in?
According to records from the Trauma Center at Rady Children's, pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of unintentional death for school aged children. In 2005, 33,571 children were treated in emergency rooms throughout the United States. Many of these injuries are preventable through increased driver, pedestrian, and bicycle safety education efforts.
To target the problem, the Center for Healthier Communities at Rady Children’s was funded to implement a Safe Routes to School Program in 26 elementary schools (District 4) in the communities of southeastern San Diego. This program follows the National SRTS model to target pedestrian and bicycle safety. SRTS programs are sustained efforts by parents, schools, community leaders and local, state, and federal governments to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bicycle to school. SRTS programs examine conditions around schools and conduct projects and activities that improve safety and reduce traffic and air pollution in the vicinity of schools. As a result, these programs make bicycling and walking to school a safer and more appealing transportation choice encouraging a healthy and active lifestyle from an early age. The SRTS model addresses five elements (the five "E”s): Evaluation, Education, Encouragement, Engineering and Enforcement.
All 26 elementary schools in the region will participate in a one-day training, modeled after National SRTS training programs. This training will provide schools with resources and technical assistance for Walk to School week and other related events, and assistance with collecting survey data which represents each individual community. In addition, the program will identify six schools in the District with the highest rates of injury and or the lowest walking and biking rates. These six schools will receive comprehensive program planning and interventions to include all five “E”s (Education, Encouragement, Enforcement, Engineering and Evaluation).
Why southeastern San Diego?
Over a recent 25-month period, there were especially high rates of accident and injury in the City Heights and the communities of southeastern San Diego; 387 children were injured as pedestrians. The County of San Diego Emergency Medical Services Department compiled pedestrian and bicycling accident data for areas surrounding schools. During a three year period (2000-3), a total of 166 accidents occurred near District 4 Elementary schools. Of those, 115 were pedestrian accidents, and 51 were bicycling accidents. Five accidents were severe or fatal. In the past 6 months, five child pedestrian injuries have occurred in the target area with foru fatalities. These accidents are often preventable through education and community training. Prevention of these injuries will be a focus of our project.
Furthermore, the percentage of school-aged children that are overweight more than doubled between the late 1970s and 2000, rising from 7 percent to 16 percent, and these numbers continue to climb. Obesity particularly impacts young people of Hispanic and African-American descent. Cardiovascular disease and diabetes also are serious problems within the African-American and Hispanic adult communities, and obesity is a root cause of these diseases. Therefore, a project such as this can have long-lasting affects and supports our efforts to benefit the residents of southeastern San Diego. Injury reduction and promoting walking and bicycle safety are both goals of the project.
Why is Safe Routes to School important?
Thirty years ago, 60 percent of children living within a 2-mile radius of a school walked or bicycled to school. Today, that number has dropped to less than 15 percent. Roughly 25 percent commute by school bus, and well over half are driven to or from school in vehicles. And back then, 5 percent of children between the ages of 6 and 11 were considered to be overweight or obese. Today, that number has climbed to 20 percent. These statistics point to a rise in preventable childhood diseases, worsening air quality and congestion around schools, and missed opportunities for children to grow into self-reliant, independent adults.
Safe Routes to School Programs are intended to reverse these trends by funding projects that improve safety and efforts that promote walking and bicycling within a collaborative community framework. It is through local champions working with a coalition of parents, schools, professionals in transportation, engineering, health, and law enforcement, that the most sustainable projects are expected to emerge.
How Can I help?
- Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego welcomes the feedback and involvement of parents, guardians, school staff and other community members. Please talk to the school principal about your concerns.
- For more information on SRTS, please contact Dane Lotspeich, Project Coordinator, at 858-576-1700, ext. 3656 or via email at email@example.com.