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Ohio First Lady Kasich, ODOT launch educational campaign
|Messenger photo by Sean V. Lehosit
Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich speaks to students at Westmoor Middle School. Kasich is ambassador for the Ohio Safe Routes to School “Every Move You Make, Keep It Safe” educational campaign. Westmoor Middle School was the first stop in a statewide tour.
A statewide educational campaign launched Oct. 4 at Westmoor Middle School is aimed toward the 1.2 million students in grades K-8 in Ohio.
The debut of Ohio Safe Routes to School’s (OSRS) campaign, “Every Move You Make, Keep It Safe,” coincides with “Walk or Bike to School Month.”
The program is a product of the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) and will continue through the 2012-13 school year.
The students at Westmoor Middle School participated in a special safety rally that included guest speakers Ohio First Lady Karen Kasich, ODOT Assistant Director of Business and Human Resources Michael Cope and Sean Hurley, a teacher at Brookville Intermediate and High School.
The All-Ohio Show Choir gave a live dance performance to its new original song promoting pedestrian safety.
In early October, Kasich was named ambassador for the new OSRS campaign. She and representatives of ODOT are encouraging children to walk or ride to school, but at the same time, speaking with them about staying safe.
“As the mother of school-age children, I believe walking and bicycling to school should be encouraged whenever possible, with traveling safely as the top priority,” Kasich said. “Parents talk to your children. Teachers, talk to your students. Set good examples of safe walking, bicycling and driving behavior and stay alert when traveling in or around school zones.”
According to statistics released by ODOT, Ohio has more than 3,000 elementary and middle schools. There were 11,734 bicycle and pedestrian related crashes around elementary and middle schools between the years 2008-10. This resulted in 244 fatalities and 7,350 injuries.
ODOT officials believe this campaign will reduce the amount of pedestrian related crashes near schools, prevent childhood obesity, increase self-sufficiency and reduce air pollution.
“Getting a healthy start in life includes being safe, as well as active,” Kasich said. “Ohio Safe Routes to School empowers children to feel confident walking or biking to school safely.”
Kasich added, a study by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found physical activity actually increases the attention span and concentration of students in class.
According Cope, ODOT has awarded funds in 64 of Ohio’s 88 counties to create safer routes to school.
“We want to make your route to school safer,” Cope said to students. “Tell your parents you want to walk and bike to school and you want them to go with you.”
Since 2005, ODOT has awarded around $32 million to more than 400 schools for improvement projects, including safer walking paths, upgraded crosswalks and educational programs for young bicyclist and walkers. All these programs are designed to empower students to live healthier lifestyles.
The city of Columbus is spending $4 million on pedestrian safety projects, including the installation of 9.2 miles of sidewalks citywide. Many of these sidewalks are in the proximity of schools, including Westmoor Middle School. The city has constructed 67.58 miles of sidewalk since 2000.
“We work to improve safety through engineering, education and evaluation,” said Jerry Wray, director of ODOT. “We also believe that grassroots efforts are needed to encourage safer behaviors.”
As the campaign tours Ohio schools it will distribute public service announcements, posters, tip cards and have launched the website www.everymove.ohio.gov to engage students statewide.
A school safety contest was also unveiled. Thirty-six students, classrooms and schools can win various prizes, from Trek bikes to running shoes, by creating their own public service announcements. Entries will be accepted through Feb. 29.
“It’s never too late to learn about safety, but when you learn it when you’re young it becomes habit,” Kasich said.
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