Pedestrian Council of Australia
Road Safety
Walk to Work Day
Friday 5 October 2018
ABC News - Friday 20 May 2011
 
 

A study shows less than half of primary school children who live within 15 minutes of school actually walk to school. (Flickr: Sharon Mollerus)

While thousands of kids will walk to school today, less than half who live a short distance from school hit the footpath on a regular basis - even though many of them want to.

Parents and children are encouraged to lace up their trainers and leave the car in the garage for National Walk Safely to School Day, which aims to fight obesity and promote active living.

But Professor Boyd Swinburn, from Deakin University's School of Health and Social Development, says despite the fact most kids would much rather take the foot falcon to school, many parents are still opting to drive.

"[Our studies show“ less than half of primary school children who live within 15 minutes of school actually walk to school," he said.

"When we asked the children how they'd prefer to get to school, 75 per cent of them say they'd prefer to get there by walking.

"When we asked the parents how they think the kids would prefer to get to school, more of them think they'd prefer to get dropped off by car."

Pedestrian Council chairman Harold Scruby, who began Walk Safely to School Day 12 years ago, says the initiative has gone from strength to strength over the past decade, but there are many parents who just are not getting the message.

"The important thing is to get children to start walking every day," he said.

"We've got evidence that says any child who walks to, or even during school, will be far more creative and productive and less likely to get ill.

"It's really important to get these messages out there. Twenty-five per cent of children are overweight or obese and they are going to grow up to be very unhealthy adults unless they change their behaviour now.

"Children want to walk and naturally want to be active, but our car-dependent society has created this mentality and behaviour where children are being driven."

With families leading such busy lives these days, taking the car is usually the fastest, most convenient option. It also means parents do not need to worry about the dangers involved with letting their kids walk to school.

But Mr Scruby says with a bit of effort, parents can build it into their routine.

"If parents can get up just a little bit earlier and leave their cars a kilometre [away“, then they've got a chance to walk with their children, teach them how to cross the road and it won't cause dangerous traffic jams or pollution around schools," he said.

"There are dangers in crossing the road and that's why our message is clear that no child under 10 should cross any road unless they're holding the hand of an adult.

"And stranger danger is far more under control, it's the perceived risk that parents have about traffic and strangers.

"Conversely, the risk they don't seem to understand is that if their children become obese at a young age, the problems with diabetes, heart problems, depression and cancer that all come with sedentary behaviour will be 10 times more risky than the safety problems surrounding crossing the road."

Professor Swinburn says parents need to get on board with initiatives like Walk Safely to School Day, to help overhaul school policies and family attitudes towards being active.

"There are lots of benefits of children being more active and getting out into their own environment," he said.

"Walking to school prevents obesity, but it also prevents other diseases later in life. It also increases quality of life, and of course reduces carbon emissions from fewer cars on the road.

"Whatever way you count it, there are plenty of benefits of active transport to school."
 
© ABC News
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