Reston, VA

By Personal Injury Attorney Amy Gaiennie of Gaiennie Law Office

The inclusion of high school students in an existing federal safety program is the latest proposal introduced by U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada.

The proposed legislation adds to the existing Safe Routes to School Program, which promotes students walking and bicycling to school, and provides safety education, incentives for active school commutes and improved infrastructure.

Unfortunately, commute-related injuries occur daily across the nation. For example, over the past year in Nevada’s Washoe County School District alone, over 20 students have been injured by cars during their commute to school.

Ensuring student safety amongst the nation’s elementary and middle schools — no matter the type of commute — is at the heart of the Safe Routes to School Program. The proposed legislation seeks to offer high school students the same umbrella of protection and benefits offered by the Safe Routes to School Program to elementary, middle, and high schools alike.

As research shows — and common-sense dictates — walking and bicycling to and from school offer students health benefits. Furthermore, offering the added protection of federally-funded safety education and infrastructure improvements to high schools expands not only those health benefits of an active commute, but also a safer commute as well. If approved, high schools would be eligible for funding from the Department of Transportation for pedestrian and bicycle safety projects.

The proposed legislation — the result of bipartisan efforts in the U.S. Senate — takes great strides in promoting safer commutes for all students. While the proposed legislation is pending regarding the inclusion of high schools in the program, safety precautions can be put in place by each individual on the road — adult or child.

For example, it is helpful for drivers who know they will be on the roads during school commute hours to allow a little more time for their own commute. Students walking to school can help practice safety by using sidewalks when available, and if no sidewalks are available, using the edge of the road while facing traffic.

Similarly, using crosswalks, where available, and always being cognizant to stop and look both ways before crossing. Bicyclists can help practice safety by wearing proper safety gear, including helmets, adhering to traffic signs and signals, and cycling in the same direction as the flow of traffic, but utilizing bike lanes where available.

For all, taking the time to be alert and pay attention may help curb the number of incidents during school commute hours — and also encourage growth in a more active commute for school students.

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