SALT LAKE CITY – With kids heading back to school, it’s worth noting that Utah is bucking the national trend for pedestrian deaths. They’re on the increase nationally, but not here.
One factor may be “Green Ribbon Month,” which starts next week in Utah schools. From school displays to being tied on backpacks, a sea of green ribbons in September reminds children and parents to stay alert and safe on their treks to and from school.
Keri Gibson, pedestrian and bike safety coordinator for the Utah Department of Public Safety, said the concern with younger children is that they don’t know the traffic rules – another good reason for parents to walk with them.
“We want to encourage more walking to school versus parents driving them to school,” she said. “But also, we want parents and students to feel safe while they’re doing it. So, Green Ribbon Month is just a great way to kick off walking to school and reinforcing those safety behaviors.”
For older students, Gibson said, the dangers are the persistent distractions of texting, listening to music or talking on the phone.
According to the Utah Department of Public Safety, pedestrians are involved in 15 percent of the fatal vehicle crashes statewide. The Utah statistics also show that fatal accidents involving motor vehicles are almost as likely in rural areas as in busy cities. One suggestion for “Green Ribbon Month” would work in either location, Gibson said, but it takes some planning by family members to organize a “walking school bus.”
“A ‘walking school bus’ is essentially having parents pick kids up along the way so they can all walk together in a big group,” she said. “That’s fairly new in Utah, and we’re trying to get more awareness about that.”
In an average year, according to the state health department, almost 1,100 pedestrians in Utah have a run-in with a motor vehicle – and about 40 of those pedestrians don’t survive.
Utah’s 2012 Fatal Crash Summary is online at <a href=”http://publicsafety.utah.gov/highwaysafety/documents/2012FatalCrashSummary-3.pdf” target=”parent”>publicsafety.utah.gov</a>. Pedestrian safety information is available at <a href=”http://headsuputah.com/” target=”parent”>headsuputah.com</a>.