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Walk to School Day promotes clean air, fit kids

A record 49 schools in the Tucson area are participating in International Walk to School Day on Wednesday to support active lifestyles in children and improve air quality.

Safe Kids Tucson encourages parents and guardians of participating schools to ditch their vehicles and walk or bike with their children to school during the annual event.

Many of the schools received special training from either the Pima County Department of Transportation or Safe Kids Tucson prior to the event. Walking and bicycle safety is promoted during the event. 

Walking and bicycling to school not only decrease air pollution, but also improve health through physical activity, help reduce obesity, reduce traffic, and provide an opportunity for families to spend quality time with each other and their neighbors, according to Safe Kids Tucson.

One technique to walk children to school safely is by using the "Walking School Bus" method, the group said. One parent in front "drives" the walking students and "picks up" other students in the neighborhood, while another parent guides from the back. As the group passes a home in their neighborhood, they pick more students up and add more parents in the front and back to ensure the children make it to school safely.

Pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of accidental death among children ages five to 14 in the U.S., said Safe Kids Worldwide.  

Children get injured when walking or bicycling to school because children don't think about getting hurt, they have trouble judging traffic speed, gaps in traffic, or whether a car is moving or standing still and they have trouble understand that a car can't stop as quickly as they can, the group said.

The Pima County Department of Transportation, Safe Kids Tucson, and the Pima County Department of Environment Quality's Clean Air Program are collaborating to get children, parents, and guardians to take part in Wednesday's event.  

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For more information on International Walk to School Day, visit www.walktoschool.org. To find out which schools in the area are participating in the event, contact Donna Lewandowski, Bicycle and Pedestrian Planner for the Pima County Department of Transportation, at 520-243-BIKE or donna.lewandowski@dot.pima.gov.

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www.walktoschool.org

The 2011 logo for International Walk to School Day.