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Utahns participate in Walk to School Day

LAYTON — Parents say they believe their children's route to school is fairly safe, but many adults choose to walk or drive their kids to school anyway.

"I feel safer walking them. Sometimes people don't stop at the crosswalk. And they speed," said Dannielle Reeves, as she walked with her daughter Faith, 9, a fourth-grader at King Elementary School in Layton.

Thousands of children around the world — along with parents, other adults and even family pets — trekked to school Wednesday morning for International Walk to School Day.

Dinora Cawley walked with her two kids, who are in preschool and first grade at King Elementary. The family dog, Hershey, a Lhasa apso, tagged along.

Cawley normally drives her two children the mile to school. "They don't pay attention. I wouldn't let them walk that distance," Cawley said. "And this road (Gordon Avenue)? Too busy."

The goal of the annual event is to teach safety skills to kids as well as promote awareness to motorists.

At King Elementary, FedEx workers, along with representatives of Safe Kids Davis County, volunteered to walk to school with students. At Valley Crest Elementary School, in West Valley City, county and city representatives and FedEx employees walked with the students.

Valley Crest recently received a $10,000 grant to make safety upgrades through the "Safe Kids This Way" pedestrian safety initiative via FedEx. Granite School District also helped fund some of the project, which includes revamping the drop-off area of the parking lot; having two crossing guards at the busy 5240 W. 3100 South crosswalk; and forming both a student and community task force to promote safety education.

In Davis County, each morning and afternoon a crossing guard escorts groups of students across the hectic Gordon Avenue to King Elementary.

"I feel pretty safe with the crossing guard," said fourth-grader Ian Thurnher, 9.

Usually one Layton police officer is present, but for Wednesday's event there were several officers, along with Layton firefighters. Kids and adults carried yellow yield signs that read "Slow Down" and "Caution Children Walking."

Parents and safety promoters say they hope their actions will help bring awareness to everyone. "All it takes is one person to not obey the crossing guard and a kid can get killed," Reeves said.

As children were starting to cross that morning, a police officer hollered at a vehicle that blatantly drove through the crosswalk despite the flashing yellow lights and crossing guard holding a red stop sign.

Crossing guard Linda Baker of Layton agrees safety of the children is No. 1. "I do not want anything to happen to the kids," she said. "Of course, I don't want to get run over, either."

Nationally, pedestrian injuries are the second leading cause of accidental death among children ages 5 to 14, said Lewis Garrett, director of the Davis County Health Department, citing Safe Kids Worldwide data.

"Each year in Utah, more than 400 people are killed and 10,500 treated in emergency rooms as a result of pedestrian injuries," Garrett said.

Wednesday's event is just one of many activities hosted by Safe Kids. An estimated 21,000 children from 35 local elementary schools in the Davis School District will participate in the Safe Kids Walk This Way program this year. Volunteers with the program will do walkability checks, promote speed enforcement campaigns and other activities to teach children important walking safety tips.

After their walk to school Wednesday, King Elementary students attended an assembly where firefighters and police officers coached the kids on their safety skills. "I pledge to look both ways when crossing the street," the students repeated in unison.

The children received green apples and wore green ribbons to celebrate the culmination of Pedestrian Safety Awareness month, which is every September.