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Increasing Funds and Awareness for Safe Routes to School

By Lawayne Childrey | Published 20 Jan 2011 07:40am | comments

Local communities around the state are eligible for funds that could make their neighborhoods safer and their bodies healthier at the same time. MPB's Lawayne Childrey reports on the Safe Routes to School Program.

The Mississippi Safe Route to School program empowers communities to make walking and bicycling to and from school a safe and healthy alternative to being driven in a car or bus. Cookie Leffler is the Safe Routes to School Coordinator for the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

"Right now about 25% of morning traffic is vehicles dropping kids off. So we can reduce that traffic congestion, we can improve the air quality in the vicinities of schools because as we know children's health is at risk you know asthma is on the rise for children and other health issues."

Over the past 5 years Mississippi Safe Routes to Schools has donated grants to communities all across the state to put sidewalks and walking trails in place to help kids get to school safely. But Bruce Brooks, district 5 supervisor in Noxubee County says it has also helped improve their overall health.

" People that's got high blood pressure or cholesterol problems, exercise is gonna be number one to that. And if we can instill this in our kids then they're gonna have a better chance of not having health problems as they get older."

Since Tameka Shannon became principle at Verona Elementary School in Lee County she says there have been at least 3 student fatalities related to unsafe walking conditions to and from school. That's why this year she is hopeful her community will be one of the lucky ones to receive the Safe Route to Schools Grant.

"There are no sidewalks so when they are walking to and from school and there are hills, cars that are traveling on the roads cannot see them. Some of the students walk in the middle of the street because they have no room to get over. So it’s a very, very dangerous situation."

Communities interested in the SRTS funds can apply through MDOTtraffic safety.com. Lawayne Childrey MPB News.

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