- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 2, 2002


The number of children hit and killed by automobiles was cut nearly in half during the 1990s, according to a report released yesterday that said the decline is due to fewer children walking to school and better traffic safety.

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, 475 pedestrians under 15 years old were killed while walking in public roadways in 2000, compared with 861 in 1990.

The campaign's report on child pedestrian safety found that parents worried about safety, long distances, time and crime are driving their children to school more often or putting them on the bus instead of allowing them to walk.

In 1969, about half of elementary school children walked or biked to school, the study said. By 1995, the government's Nationwide Personal Transportation Survey of 5- to 9-year-olds found that 10 percent of children walked to school, 53 percent traveled by car and about 30 percent rode school buses.

Heather Paul, executive director of the National Safe Kids Campaign, said it's important to make it safer for children to walk to school.

"We know obesity numbers are growing, and part of it is based on sedentary trends for children," Miss Paul said. "Walking to school should be the first step, literally and figuratively, toward a really healthy day."

Miss Paul also attributed the drop in deaths to better traffic safety, including more crossing guards and flashing lights and increased ticketing of speeders.

Children are most likely to be hit and killed between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m., the study found. Of those children killed while walking along roadways, only 29 percent were struck at intersections.

The pedestrian death rate also changes significantly by age, race and sex, according to the report. Children under 9 have a rate 20 percent higher than 10- to 14-year-olds. The death rate for black children is more than twice that of whites, and boys die 57 percent more often than girls.

Today is International Walk to School Day, and Safe Kids and FedEx Express volunteers will visit schools across the country to teach children how to be safe when walking to school.

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