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Pedestrian Training Covers More Than Walking

Nov 30, 2015 06:00AM ● By Pamela Johnson

Above (L-R): Manuel Martinez, Nathan Forestal, William Cunningham, Hockomock Y Sr. Prog. Director Tim Shaw

story & photo by Marjorie Hollman, Contributing Writer

Stall Brook Elementary School recently hosted a series of pedestrian safety training classes for its second- and third-grade classes. The free training was provided by the MA Dept. of Transportation’s (DOT’s) Safe Routes to School trainer Heather Ross.

Before the students arrived, Ross spent some time going over the program with parent volunteers, as well as staff-member volunteers from the Hockomock Area YMCA, partners with Bellingham schools in the Safe Routes to School program. Ross noted, “We will cover  safe use of cross walks and sidewalks, and how to safely walk in parking lots. These are three important places to be aware of safe-walking behavior.”

As Ross explained the basic principles she hoped the volunteers would cover, a parent volunteer laughed and said, “We needed this training before we did our ‘Safe Routes’ walks in October. We were pulling the kids away from the curbs the entire walk!”

Ross noted during her training, “We’re seeing an increase in pedestrian fatalities—people are walking and texting, not looking where they are going.”

After the training from Ross, each volunteer worked with three to four children at a time practicing the strategies that Ross had suggested. The principles are simple, but can make a difference in saving lives.

Principles to keep in mind when on sidewalks: if there is an adult with a child, the adult stays closer to the street; when two children walk together, the older, or taller, child or the child wearing more colorful clothing walks closer to the street.

Ross reminded the adults she was training, “There are two parts to walking safely—seeing what is happening and being seen.” She stressed, “Any time you come to a driveway, stop and look.”

Behavior in parking lots took up a substantial portion of the training. “Parking lots have lots of cars with the potential to move,” Ross pointed out. “People are not looking for children in parking lots; they are looking for parking spaces.” She made suggestions for helping children judge whether a car is about to move. She also offered an easy-to-remember “sneak and peek” strategy that the children later had fun practicing: near the back of the car you’ve just gotten out of, place one foot near the back tire, the other foot near the end of the car, then lean out and look in all directions to see if any cars are coming before you step away from the car to enter a store.”

“What a great reminder,” Rafferty said. “Rather than nagging our kids, we can simply say, “Sneak and peek!’”

Ross also provided instructions for safe crossing at crosswalks: “We used to say, ‘Look both ways,’ but now we suggest, ‘Look around the world,’ since there may be more than two directions that cars could be coming from. You have to adapt to each situation.”

Ross’s last instruction to the trainers was to remind children, “Don’t be a squirrel.” She said, “You know how squirrels run in circles into the road, run around, and don’t get out of the way? You don’t want to be that squirrel. Don’t get squished!”

Julia Hamm practices "sneak & peek"
The volunteers took in a tremendous amount of information in a short time from Ross’s training, but they grasped the ideas and cheerfully worked with the 2nd and 3rd graders, going over the concepts and helping the kids practice in the parking area next to Stall Brook School. Ty Foster was one of the volunteer trainers. He runs the Hockomock Y’s before- and after-school programs at Stall Brook. He said, “This is really great. I’m with the kids before and after school every day. ‘Sneak and peek’ and ‘Don’t be a squirrel’ are great concepts. This is something I’ll talk about with the kids in the after-school program today.”

So be safe out there and remember,  sneak and peek, and don’t be a squirrel!
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