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Program Meant to Target Childhood Obesity Cuts Down on Traffic Injuries, Too

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Amongst all the tragic news about school safety, a U.S. News World and Report study revealed that there may be succesful methods to keeping kids safe as they travel to and from school. After studying the streets of NYC, researchers found that child pedestrian injuries fell by 44% when the city made traffic changes including installing more traffic lights, speed bumps, putting islands in the center of streets, and setting up digital signs to tell drivers how fast they are going.

Although the study took place in NYC, it still shows promise for safety programs implemented across the nation. The National Safe Routes to School Program is one such program and was set up in 2005 to encourage kids to walk or ride their bikes to school. The main motivation behind the program was to get kids to be physically active and decrease rates of childhood obesity, but based on the findings of the report, the program may also help protect kids from fatal pedestrian traffic injuries that they may have suffered merely by traveling to and from school.

The Safe Routes to School Program allocated $612 million between 2005 and 2009 to help states make their sidewalks safer, as well as the streets and traffic patterns around schools. NYC used its money to target 124 schools with the highest traffic injuries. The traffic injury rate at schools that did not receive the funding held steady, while it dropped from 8 per 10,000 to 4.4 per 10,000 students for the schools that benefited from the program. Overall, structural changes to traffic safety do make a difference and hopefully these types of changes will be seen across the country.