More than 7,000 Kansas children take part in Walk to School Day

Path toward safety awareness

Merrick Vinke, 7, lives two blocks from her school, Quail Run. But Wednesday was the first time the second-grader walked to school.

“We usually drive, so it’s kind of sad we don’t walk more,” said Merrick’s mother, Michelle Tebo.

Mother and daughter opted to trek to school on foot Wednesday to be part of the annual International Walk to School Day, an event established so parents would walk their children to school and teach them safe pedestrian behavior.

It’s estimated that more than 7,000 Kansas children participated in the event, according to Safe Kids Kansas, which sponsors Walk to School Day for the state.

“Many factors contribute to the safety of our children as pedestrians, including how involved the community is as a whole,” said Jan Stegelman, Safe Kids Kansas coordinator. “It is everyone’s responsibility to protect the children in our state from pedestrian accidents.”

Nationwide, pedestrian injuries are the second highest cause of accidental death among children between the ages of 5 and 14. About 650 children are killed and 43,000 are treated in emergency rooms yearly because of pedestrian injuries, according to Safe Kids Kansas.

Lawrence residents are working to make the city more pedestrian-friendly. In June, the city’s Traffic Safety Commission formed a pedestrian safety committee.

According to data compiled by the city for the Traffic Safety Commission, there has been an annual average of 31 vehicle accidents involving pedestrians of all ages during the past six years.

“We have two goals. One is to make Lawrence a more walkable city by making sure it’s easy to get around and sidewalks are well lit,” said Danny Drungilas, co-chairman of the pedestrian safety committee. “We also want to put together a pedestrian safety campaign to make people aware of pedestrian laws and rights.”

In the meanwhile, Tebo was teaching her daughter rules to keep in mind when walking to school.

“I learned not to stop and talk to anyone and to look both ways when crossing the street,” Merrick said.