Students all across the US are getting ready to go back to school. While it seems like there is an endless list of things to do to get ready for the new school term, there is one thing you may not have considered: how your school transportation affects those around you.

In the past, most children walked to and from school. Now the majority of children (54%) are driven by their parents or other caregivers.While there are numerous reasons for the increase in driving (safety concerns, school bus budget cuts, etc.), the impacts of all those car trips is undeniable.

Parents’ frustration at the long school drop-off and pickup ques is understandable; especially with the majority of households having two working parents rushing to get on the road to work. I can imagine the chaos in those car queues as parents are pushed to their limits by noisy and rambunctious kids in the back seat, slow moving cars in front of them, and rude drivers behind. The emotional stress is overwhelming.

But the environmental stress and health risks associated with the car que is also untenable. According to the group Clean Air at Schools: Engines-Off: “Idling a vehicle for just one minute produces more carbon monoxide than smoke from three packs of cigarettes. Elevated exposure to air pollution can permanently damage children's respiratory systems because they breathe 50% more air per pound of body weight, spend more time outdoors, and are more active than adults. Yet, adults wait in running vehicles for as long as 30 minutes to pick up their children at school every day.”

And, according to experts at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA):

One car idling at one school creates about three pounds of air pollution per month. Those car emissions are contributing to climate change.

 

So, what can you do? Even though studies show that kids benefit from walking or biking to school, less than 15-percent do so. Safe Routes to School a project of non-profit Transform is working to dramatically increase that number. They provide great information on getting kids walking to school.

 

Good old-fashioned school car-pooling is a great way decrease your environmental footprint. Safe Routes Marin County has lots of great car-pooling tips and resources to set up a win/win/win for you, your child and community.

 

If your only option is to drive your youngsters to school, please make sure that you turn your engine off if your car is idling more that 30 seconds. Take the Idle-Free Pledge and pass it on to your friends and neighbors.

 

Let’s make our communities healthier and happier this school year.

 

 

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