WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the start of the new school year, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood is urging parents and students to be safety conscious and to consider greener alternatives for getting to and from school, such as riding the school bus, walking or biking.
“If it’s an option, leave your car, van or SUV parked at home and let your kids ride the school bus, their bike or walk to school,” LaHood said in a message issued Wednesday. “Not only are these options safer, a single school bus can take the place of multiple passenger cars, cutting down on traffic congestion and air pollution, and walking and biking are good choices that improve the health of our kids.”
Department of Transportation officials also noted that community leaders and parents across the country can tap into the Safe Routes to School program for resources to improve safety and to find ways to encourage more children, including those with disabilities, to safely walk and bicycle to school.
David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pointed out that despite the safety benefits of other forms of transportation, many parents and young drivers elect to use private passenger vehicles for the drive to and from school.
“While such choices may often be convenient, they are not without risk,” Strickland said. “Teen drivers are at an especially high risk of a crash whenever they drive. And this risk goes up as more teens pile into a vehicle.”
He also noted that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15- to 20-year-olds. In 2008, more than 2,700 teenage drivers were killed and nearly 230,000 were injured, according to NHTSA statistics.
LaHood recommended that parents and children visit www.saferoutesinfo.org or www.nhtsa.gov/School-Buses for tips on how to maximize safety when traveling to school by bus, on foot, by bicycle or by car.