6 Tips For Walking Safely To School

mother and child walk to school. Betsie Van Der Meer

Obesity has become a major concern for American parents.  While the public school system has made efforts to clean up school food, school age children also need to get adequate exercise to remain healthy.  

Walk In Groups  

Larger groups are easier for drivers to see. Have your child walk with at least one friend on the way to school. This will also provide social time for your child while they are walking in a group to school.


Wear Bright Colors and Reflective Clothing

Dark and bland colors can blend into the background and make pedestrians difficult for drivers to see.  Wearing safe colors doesn't have to limit your child's fashion sense, though. A brightly colored jacket can be worn to and from school and placed in a locker during the school day. Brightly colored shoes have become trendy in recent years.  

You can attach wearable reflectors like jacket zipper pulls on your child's clothing. You can also find reflective snap bracelets that a child can quickly wear on the wrists or ankles. Unfortunately, the bracelets are just easy to remove - so only give these to children you know will wear them.

Identify a Safe Route To School

Look for sidewalks and lighted crosswalks. Good lighting throughout the day from street lights is a plus.  Stay away from routes that have children crossing busy streets. Once you have found a route that you believe is safe for your child to use to get to and from school, make sure they know about the route and not to stray from it.

Tell them not use shortcuts, even if their friend tells them it is okay. 

By using the same route you discussed with your child you know that your child will be on the safe path you found for them.  You will also know exactly where they are before and after school.

Know When Your Child Is Mature Enough To Walk Without A Parent

The National Center For Safe Routes to School says that most children are not ready to cross the street without an adult until age 10.

 The Center also says that the maturity of different children can vary greatly (parents already knew that) and that a specific age at which  a child is ready to walk to school without an adult depends on a variety of factors related to child maturity and the route chosen.   

This means that almost all elementary-age child should walk with an adult to school, since age 10 is well into the fifth grade for many children. If your elementary-age child will be walking to school, make sure there is an adult that can go with the group of children your child will be walking to school with. This can be a great opportunity for an adult to get some physical activity, just as it is good for the children.

Teach Children To Tell Both School Personel and Parents About Unsafe Situations

Bullies, unsafe acting adults, and road hazards are just a few of the unsafe situations that could crop up on your child's walk to school.  If you child is old enough to walk without an adult present to school, make sure they know that it is vitally important to tell both school personnel and parents of any unsafe situations they encounter on the way to school.

Reporting bullies provides the school a chance to intervene and stop the bullying behavior. Reporting suspicious adults can give the school personnel or parents chance to notify the appropriate agency about potentially dangerous people before an incident occurs. As pedestrians on public streets, school children walking to school are likely to be some of the first people to notice a change in road conditions. Report it to the right agency so that necessary work can be done to return the routes to safety.

No Safe Route?  Do Something About It!

If you live within walking distance of your child's school and cannot find a route for children to walk safely to school, let school and community leaders know that school children could use a safe route to school. Remind these people of the need for more physical activity that all Americans are facing. Groups that may be able to help include the PTA/PTO, the local school board, state transportation departments.

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