Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Washington fourth-grader Dominik Martinez takes the bus after school Tuesday. Safe walking, biking are also being emphasized.

Utah schools and the Utah Department of Transportation are partnering to protect kids and save parents gas money.

Tuesday afternoon, right after Washington Elementary School dismissed, UDOT representatives were on hand to educate parents about the Student Neighborhood Access Program. They talked to parents and children about the importance of being safe while walking and biking to and from school.

SNAP is a state-funded program initiated to fulfill the state law mandating "elementary, middle and junior high schools to implement a plan outlining the safest walking and biking routes for students to take to school," according to a UDOT flier.

The SNAP software program allows schools to go out into the community and neighborhoods surrounding the schools. Principals, teachers and parents are encouraged to work together to learn the area and find the safest routes for students to travel. Parents are given a printout of the routes by their child's school. They may also access the software from UDOT's Web site.

Washington Elementary principal Joann Price explained that in the past, school administrators had to draw routes in on a map by hand. With the new program, "It really gets you out into the neighborhood," Price said.

While working with UDOT to implement SNAP, Price said they found a few areas that were in need of crosswalks, sidewalks and other safety precautions. However, because of the school's efforts, those precautions were implemented before the school year started.

Adan Carillo, public information officer for UDOT, explained the goals of SNAP: increase air quality and save gas by decreasing the number of idling cars waiting to pick up or drop off students; and address child health issues by encouraging children to exercise; and decrease congestion on roads close to the schools.

"In the '60s, about 60 percent of kids walked to school. Today, only about 15 percent walk," said Mike Kaczorowski, UDOT safety programs engineer. He explained that UDOT wants Utah students to continue walking or biking to school, but said the students need to be safe, too.

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