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Study Reveals Results Of Safety Measures Aimed At School-Aged Children

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Several years ago, Congress allocated more than $600 million to reduce the number of school-age pedestrian injuries, and New York city was a major target for the initiative. Now, a new study examines if students are in fact safer while walking or biking to school after some major changes were made. NY1's Cheryl Wills filed the following report.

Speed bumps and other safety precautions in place at P.S. 123 in Harlem are specifically designed to reduce the number of pedestrian accidents involving children.

It's all part of the "Safe Routes to School" federal program that was implemented in 2005. Congress allocated more than $600 million to reduce the soaring number of students who were injured or killed while headed to or from school.

Since 2001, approximately 15,000 children nationwide have been hurt, and more than 300 of them died. Densely-populated neighborhoods in New York City are among the most dangerous.

Dr. Charles DiMaggio is with Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health.

"This sort of bubbled up from the community, from parents, from children and from teachers," DiMaggio says.

What they wanted was for children to be able to walk or bike safely to school. Research shows the plan worked. According to Dr. DiMaggio's report, which appears in the journal "Pediatrics", pedestrian injuries among school-aged children dropped 44 percent during school travel hours.

"We think the evidence is actually pretty compelling for the effectiveness of the program," DiMaggio says. "You rarely see this level of effect in these kinds of public health interventions."

More than 134 schools in New York City, such as P.S. 194 in Harlem, were targeted for new safety interventions, including high-visibility crosswalks, new parking regulations and longer pedestrian crossing times.

The "Safe Routes to School" program was federally funded until 2012 at about 10 percent of elementary and secondary schools nationwide. Safety advocates are pushing to have the program expanded because schools that do not have safety interventions still see the same rate of pedestrian injuries among children.

It's hoped that state and local governments will continue the work that the federal government started.

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