YESTERDAY marked National Walk Safely to School Day (WSTSD), an annual event held on May 20 that encourages all primary school aged children to walk and commute safely to school.
Now in its 23rd year, the community initiative aims to raise awareness about the health and environmental benefits achieved through going on regular walks, as well as educating children about road safety.
Hamilton Police acting sergeant, Alex Gettens, said officers from the Hamilton Police Station participated in the initiative by walking with students from Hamilton North Primary School, and Gray Street Primary School yesterday morning.
“We have used this event as an opportunity to educate and engage with some of our most vulnerable road users, being school aged children,” he said.
“As part of Victoria Police’s Neighbourhood Policing, we are strengthening our ties to the local communities and bringing back a grass roots style of ‘your local copper’, so we’re jumping on board with this fantastic initiative as a part of National Road Safety Week 2022.”
National Road Safety Week runs from May 15–22, and is an initiative created by the Safer Australian Roads and Highways (SARAH) Group.
The week aims to promote road safety through highlighting the impact of road trauma and how it can be reduced.
Act Sgt Gettens said WSTSD provided the perfect opportunity for police to speak to children and their parents about tips for staying safe when walking to and from school.
“(Police were out) encouraging parents and carers to walk regularly with their children, either all or part way to school, reminding people that until age ten, children must always hold an adult’s hand when crossing the road, and helping children develop road safety awareness on sidewalks and crossings - things they do not learn inside a car,” he said.
“(We’re also) reducing car dependency and congestion around schools, and encouraging adults and teenagers to be mindful of cars and traffic around them, paying more attention to their surroundings than a phone!”
As part of National Road Safety Week, police across the state targeted pedestrian safety and distractions on Wednesday, May 18, due to the number of pedestrian deaths in the year to date (16 deaths) being more than double the amount this time last year (six deaths).
With winter quickly approaching, Act Sgt Gettens said police are concerned the number of pedestrian deaths will continue to increase due to a combination of the weather and more people venturing outdoors to attend work and social events.
“Historically we’ve seen that during the colder months of autumn and winter we have a higher risk of pedestrian-based accidents,” he said.
Road policing assistant commissioner, Glenn Weir, said distractions were often the cause of pedestrian-based accidents, with police urging both motorists and pedestrians to always pay attention.
“Too often people aren’t aware of their surroundings because they’re blasting music through their headphones or absorbed with their mobile phone,” he said.
“We also need motorists to pay attention and be aware of pedestrians.
“Drive so others survive, especially around built up and busy areas like schools and shopping strips.
“Please, help us keep pedestrians safe - they’re such simple steps but they could avoid a tragedy.”
Information about keeping safe on footpaths and roads is available at police.vic.gov.au/pedestrians-and-cyclists.