Sunday, April 13, 2008
Students, parents learn pedestrian safety
Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2008
By Phyl Newbeck
Burlington Free Press Correspondent
JERICHO -- The road to school might now be a little safer in Jericho.
Nearly a dozen parents, some of whom were accompanied by their children, went to the Jericho Elementary School gym last week for the first "Walk Safe, Bike Safe Workshop" hosted by the Jericho Elementary School Safe Routes to Schools program.
The presentations were designed to help adults guide children on safe and healthy behavior while walking or biking to school. Jesse Pelton, coordinator of the school's Safe Routes to Schools program, said the goal of the program is to change attitudes about walking and biking to school.
"Children are not the problem; they love to do this stuff," he said. His goal is to ensure that parents are comfortable allowing their children to walk or bicycle to school by educating them about safe ways to travel and behave.
Mary Kintner, a chiropractor, provided a workshop on the proper use of backpacks. Kintner said textbooks are heavier than they used to be because they are reinforced better. She counsels against allowing children to carry backpacks weighing more than 10 percent to 15 percent of their body weight, and suggested that parents check their children's backpacks on a weekly basis to make sure they aren't carrying more than they need.
Kintner opened one student's backpack to determine what items were not really needed. The pack weighed 19 pounds while the student tipped the scales at 65 pounds, meaning her pack was about 30 percent of her body weight.
Cpl. Robert Halpin of the Vermont State Police provided tips for drivers sharing the road with pedestrians and cyclists. His specialty is traffic safety, and he is a driver education instructor.
He said drivers tend to lose their skills and/or become lazy as they become more relaxed at the wheel. He cautioned against losing that extra vigilance, particularly in school zones. Halpin recommended that students and parents walking along the road wear safety vests.
Rosemary Wooden Webb of the organization Child Lures Prevention conducted a workshop on how to protect children from sexual predators. She said there are more than 600,000 registered sex offenders in the United States, and provided guidelines for parents and teachers on preventive measures to teach children.
Webb said the age-old warning for children not to talk to strangers is not necessarily good advice, particularly because many abusers are people whom children know. However, she said predators in vehicles can be dangerous and children should be taught not to get close to drivers and to run in the opposite direction of a car if approached.
Paul Sulva is the parent of an elementary school student. He said he believes that the workshops provided parents with a greater awareness of the need for a safe environment for children to travel to and from school.
Sulva was somewhat bothered by the low attendance but hoped that the word would spread that Jericho is a community where children and adults like to be outside and need to be able to walk, run and bicycle in a safe environment.