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Hundreds of students and parents put away the keys and hit the sidewalk this morning for International Walk to School Day.
Children from Valley Crest Elementary in West Valley participated by holding signs asking motorists to slow down and look for kids crossing for school.
The Walk to School program was established as a way to enhance the health of kids, create safer walking routes, and to improve air quality. Advocates of the program say as cars line up to drop kids off or pick them up, pollutants are emitted by the idling vehicles, putting children at risk for respiratory problems.
Dale Ann Wright, a safety police officer for West Valley City, said, "In reality, the hazards they create through the congestion at the school and through all of the pollutants in the air, and the children aren't able to exercise and get the walking that they need, is detrimental to their own children, detrimental to the environment."
Parents who walked with their kids today agreed and say walking has other benefits as well.
Tenessa Nordfelt said, "My daughter absolutely loves it. It gives her some social time before school to talk with her friends, and it's invigorating to get a walk in, in the morning."
Michelle Mounts said, "I think it's very good. It's nice to get the exercise and to spend time with the kids. It's fun."
Along with improving health, International Walk to School Day was established as a way to create safer routes for kids. In Salt Lake County, 507 people are hit by motor vehicles in a year. Of those pedestrians struck, approximately 169 are children up to age 14.
Officer Wright says she believes that children become distracted and don't pay attention. She also says parents need to take responsibility and lead by example.
"We see on a daily basis parents who put their children in danger by jaywalking them, insisting they get out of the car and jaywalk across the street," she said.
Officer Wright suggests finding a group of students to walk together or designating one parent per day to walk with the children.
Last year 6,000 schools participated in Walk To School Day; 49 were from Utah.