Accompanying her son to the first day of kindergarten presented Kiersten Hewitt with a variety of fears common to most parents.
Before most of those fears could be realized, however, Hewitt found that simply getting to school could become the biggest danger for her child due to speeding, aggressive drivers along Layton's Gordon Avenue."The excitement of the first day began to wane," Hewitt said about that first walk. She said the recommended "safest route" involved walking along a twisting residential street with no sidewalks.
That walk drove Hewitt to start asking questions, requesting additional safety measures for child pedestrians, and appealing to drivers to slow down and watch out. Now, those words have led to a statewide campaign coordinated through elementary schools.
"We need to raise community awareness about child safety," Hewitt said Monday during a press conference to announce the safety program. "If bad driving is infectious, courtesy and safety are also infectious. We can all become better drivers."
The focus of the program is the Green Ribbon Pledge, which asks drivers of all ages to promise to drive below the posted speed limit in school and residential areas, watch crosswalks closely and to educate children about pedestrian safety.
Education for children is an especially important and often overlooked aspect of safety. Parents need to spend much more time showing children how to look both ways, wait for the proper signals, and make sure all cars have stopped.
During the press conference, Craig Allred, director of highway safety for Utah, noted that too many adults think kids use the same logic as their parents. Quite the contrary, as he demonstrated through a safety video that showed kids avoiding crosswalks because signs portrayed an adult crossing, or running because the kids on the signs appeared to be rushing. Using the elementary schools as a launching pad for the program's inaugural year is important because often the most dangerous drivers are parents, Allred said.
Last year, 44 percent of the pedestrians injured were under the age of 15, and six children under the age of 9 died from auto-pedestrian collisions in 1996. Numbers like these, Allred said, demonstrate the necessity of this program.