MONDAY, Jan. 14 (HealthDay News) -- After New York City made the streets near some of its schools safer, the number of children struck by cars each year dropped substantially, a new study shows.
Researchers found that the rate of child pedestrian injuries during "school travel" hours fell by 44 percent around schools where the city made traffic changes. The changes included installing more traffic lights and speed bumps, putting islands in the center of wide streets, and setting up digital signs that tell drivers how fast they are going.
Experts say the findings point to the success of the National Safe Routes to School program, which was set up in 2005 to encourage kids to walk or ride their bikes to school.
"The study shows that safety programs really do work," said Kate Carr, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide, in Washington, D.C. "Making common sense improvements around schools by adding sidewalks and speed bumps, improving signage, and creating more visible crosswalks prevents injuries and saves lives."
"At a time when we need more focus on decreasing driver and pedestrian distraction, programs like Safe Routes to School are more important than ever when it comes to the safety of our kids," added Carr, who was not involved with the study.
The main motivation for the program originally was to get kids physically active and help curb childhood obesity. But based on the new findings, reported online Jan. 14 and in the February print issue of the journal Pediatrics, the program also may be protecting kids from potentially serious or fatal injuries.
"The reason so many kids aren't walking to school is that parents are worried about safety, and one of their biggest concerns is the risk of pedestrian injury," said study co-author Charles DiMaggio, an associate professor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City.
The findings, DiMagg
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