Wednesday is International Walk to School Day, and organizers anticipate record numbers of walkers. This means there will be tens of thousands of kids, families, teachers and other community members using their pedestrian power to get to school that morning.
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As the number of pedestrians killed in traffic increased by 11 percent in 2016 compared with 2015 — the largest increase ever — drivers everywhere should take care to focus on safe driving practices around those on foot. Tomorrow morning will be full of excitement, and many large groups of students and others will be walking together. In some cases, law enforcement officers may even be directing traffic at street crossings to provide safe passage for the walkers.
Given the data, a few reminders about how to drive when pedestrians are afoot are in order.
With a little help from Walk to School Day organizers and the National Safety Council, here are some tips for drivers to observe International Walk to School Day in safety and unity with their pedestrian counterparts:
Heed Your Speed
School-zone speed limits must be followed. You should also drive carefully and slowly near playgrounds and in residential areas.
Change your route and give yourself more time. Perhaps you'd find it easier to get where you're going via a different route that doesn't take you through a school zone or neighborhood.
Obey Rights of Way
Yield to pedestrians in the crosswalks or intersections.
Don't Be a Jerk
No honking or revving of your vehicle's Used Engine to intimidate pedestrians. (Seriously, don't do this. It's really unbecoming).
Keep Crosswalks Clear
Don't block them if you're at a red light or waiting to turn. This could force walkers into the flow of traffic, endangering them.
Never pass school buses that are stopped or other cars that are stopped for pedestrians. It will only be a minute or two, and you'll still get to wherever you're going.
Put the Phone Down
Stop texting. Stop updating your status. Not just on Walk to School Day, but always.
Stay alert. Have an extra cup of coffee that morning if you must. Treat yourself and pedestrians right.
As Nancy Pullen-Seufert, director of the National Center for Safe Routes to School and one of the organizers of Walk to School Day, said, "Attentive drivers traveling at slower speeds can save lives. Our communities' pedestrians — whether they are children or adults — should not have to pay with their lives for a misstep or driver error."
International Walk to School Day intends for everyone to have fun, get some fresh air and go home at the end of the day, so slow down and pay attention. Of course, you could always leave the car at home and take part in the walking event, too.
"People are often surprised at how refreshing and energizing it can be," Seufert said.
Sounds to us like a pretty good way to start the day.