Thousands in SC walk to school to mark special day

STATEWIDE (WTOC) - Thousands of students, educators and parents ditched buses and cars to take part in International Walk to School Day on Wednesday.

The state Transportation Department estimates that approximately 50,000 walkers from more than 100 schools took part in the event. The department's Safe Routes to School Program helps promote the effort in the state.

The day is designed to draw attention to the need for safer walking and bicycling routes as well as the need for children to get more physical activity.

Each morning outside of Hubert Middle School in Chatham County, Georgia, a steady steam of cars, minivans, SUVs, bicycles and buses swarm the school. "I like to walk," said sixth grade student Jamonte Jones.

Jones falls in the group of only 15 percent of U.S. children that walk or ride their bikes to school.

Assistant Principal Wilhelmenia Manning said the number of walking students has been falling over the years, it's a trend they want to kick to the curb. "Want to encourage parents and students to walk to school along the designated safe routes to school, definitely some benefits," said Manning. "Good time for bonding with you child."

On Wednesday, the federally funded National Center for Safe Routes to school is pushing communities to encourage more walking and biking during International Walk to School Day. "There are number benefits in participating in the Safe Routes to School program," said Manning. "They will come and evaluate your school and give money for infrastructure; for things such as sidewalks, cover areas for and giving tips to students."

The day is also designed to draw attention to the need for safer walking and bicycling routes as well as the need for children to get more physical activity. "It was tiring," said eighth grade student Andrea Jivens. "It was cold, but it was good exercise."

Getting more feet and less vehicles on the street. It's a day of walking that is improving lives one step at a time. Road traffic injuries are the second leading cause of death among children ages 10 to 14 worldwide.

Copyright 2010 WTOC. All Rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.