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Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program.
SRTS is a decadesold, wellestablished program with international origins that has spread across the United States. It is now supported by the federal government under the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users or SAFETEALU.
At the state level, SRTS is administered by the N.H. Department of Transportation (NHDOT).
As the name suggests, the program is designed to encourage elementary school children, in kindergarten through eighth grade, to safely walk or ride bicycles to school. Affected children, including those with disabilities, live within approximately two miles of school.
For a variety of reasons, ranging from fear of crime and bullying to concerns about traffic hazards, the number of children getting to school under their own power has declined dramatically in recent decades.
The decline in walking and biking to school reflects a trend toward general inactivity, often accompanies by unhealthy diets. When children develop sedentary habits that last into adulthood, they face the risks of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, asthma and cancers.
In many communities, walking and biking have been replaced by rides in private cars, pickup trucks, vans , SUVs and the like. In addition to negative health effects for the children, these singleoccupancy vehicles cause traffic congestion near schools. This contributes to air pollution and wastes fuel when motors idle while adults or older siblings wait for kids.
Ironically, a ride to school in a private vehicle is no guarantee of safe passage. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for children 14 and under. In 2004, for example, 493 pedestrians and bike riders under 14 were killed and an additional 29,000 injured. That same year, the toll for those riding in motor vehicles was 1,638 children killed and 246,000 injured.
SRTS is an unusual program in that it brings together people from all sectors of the community, including officials who work across jurisdictional lines. Educators, municipal officials, parents, students, and advocacy organization form what is known as a SRTS local task force.