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Distance is the No. 1 Reason Noted by Parents, CDC Survey Shows

Sept. 30, 2005 -- During the first week of October, millions of kids worldwide will stroll to school during "International Walk to School Week."

Many U.S. kids may miss out. A new CDC survey shows that less than one in five children (17%) walk to or from school at least once a week.

What's the problem? Distance, traffic, weather, and crime, according to a CDC survey of about 1,500 parents with kids aged 5 to 18.

Distance was the most commonly cited reason. Home and school are just too far apart, many parents reported.

The study appears in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Walk-to-School Barriers

The parents chose from a list of reasons about why their youngest child didn't walk to school. They could pick as many reasons as they wanted. Their answers:

  • Distance: 61%
  • Too dangerous because of traffic: 30%
  • Weather: 19%
  • Too dangerous because of crime: 12%
  • Other reasons: 15%
  • School policy: 6%

Some parents saw no good reason why their child couldn't walk to school. About 16% of parents surveyed agreed with the statement, "It is not difficult for my child to walk to school."

Clearing the Way for WalkersThe "four Es" could make walking to school easier, suggests the CDC. The four Es are:

  • Engineering (such as adding signals for street crossing)
  • Enforcement (of speed limits)
  • Education (such as teaching kids how to be safe pedestrians)
  • Encouragement

Two recent studies -- one from Denmark and one from Scotland -- report that kids who walk to school tend to be more physically active all day long. That could help build healthy habits and curb weight problems.

All Aboard the 'Walking Bus'

Want a practical, inexpensive solution? Create a "walking school bus," suggests the CDC.

Basically, kids walk together to school, sandwiched between a parent who leads the way and another who walks behind the kids. One parent is the "driver," the students are the "passengers," and another parent is the "caboose."

Parents' presence on a "walking school bus" might ease safety fears, but what about distance? Groups could meet up a mile or so from school and walk the rest of the way to campus, the CDC notes.

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