Students Hoof It for School Safety Event

Hundreds of parents took a step in the right direction, abandoning their automobiles and walking their children to school as part of "Walk a Child to School Day" on Wednesday.

"That wasn't too bad," said Mercedes Haefs after completing a quarter-mile walk with her daughters Chelsea, 6, and Taylor, 11 months, who rode in a stroller. "I think I'll try to do it more often."

Haefs joined about 40 parents and children as they walked from the corner of Foothill Boulevard and Polk Street to Sylmar Elementary School at 13291 Phillippi Ave.

Throughout Los Angeles, groups of adults and children gathered at 10 busy intersections for a stroll to the neighborhood elementary school, including four schools in the Valley.

The day, coordinated by the child safety organization Safe Moves and the Los Angeles Unified School District, sought to demonstrate how adults walking with young children is one way of keeping those students safe.

"Walking improves the safety of children by lessening congestion around schools," said Pat Hines, executive director of Safe Moves. "When parents talk about their children walking to school, their biggest fear is the traffic around the school from other parents."

Citing figures from the city's Transportation Department, Hines said among pedestrians under 14 there has been a 28% decrease in injuries and a 41% decline in deaths since 1996, but there were still 538 pedestrian injuries and 14 deaths in 1997.

"It's costing us when people get hit, not just financially but emotionally," she said.

"In addition to the positive impact on traffic congestion and safety, walking is also great exercise for parents and children," Hines said. "L.A. gets accused all the time for not walking and now is a good time to change that attitude."

And for many that attitude does seem to be changing. "I just like to walk because it's fun," said Chelsea Haefs. "It's just easier."

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