Making the Walk to School Safer
“They don’t have as many wrecks around here anymore,” according to Treadwell Elementary School student Tarvaris Smith, age 9. “It’s a lot safer for all the kids.”
That’s how most of Tarvaris’ classmates feel after all the recent improvements designed to make their walk to school safer.
Tarvaris and the entire student body took part in a Safe Kids Walk This Way Parade around their Memphis, TN school, complete with cheerleaders and a band, in honor of International Walk to School Day October 1st. The festivities also celebrated a new crosswalk, traffic signs, landscaping and other work that has been done to remove pedestrian hazards. Leading the parade were FedEx Express SVP Matt Thornton and Safe Kids Worldwide CEO Kate Carr.
“With 90,000 vehicles on the road every day, safety is our number one priority,” said Thornton. “We want to do our part to help make sure kids are as safe as possible on their way to school.”
“This is such an exciting day,” said Carr. “It’s gratifying to see all the kids marching around this area that we’ve helped to protect and make safer when they’re coming to and from school.”
A few years ago, the area around Treadwell had one of the highest rates of pedestrian injuries. FedEx, a 15 year sponsor of Safe Kids, worked with experts from the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center and set out to examine crosswalks, street corners and signs (or lack of them) in the Treadwell School neighborhood to see what could be done to make the biggest impact. FedEx engineers observed traffic and pedestrian patterns and made recommendations for routing traffic around the school. A plan of action was developed. Modifications such as changing how traffic flows around the school, high visibility crosswalks, improved landscaping, installation of signage, and new high-tech Rectangular Rapid Flash Beacons (RRFBs) were installed. These RRFBs were the first of their kind in the state of Tennessee.
“As a group of engineers, we spend a lot of time working on FedEx operations, so we don’t get an opportunity to go out and practice it in our community,” said Gigi Wolfe, who manages the group of FedEx volunteer engineers who worked on the project. “Everyone in this group has children, and so this was a nice opportunity to give back.”
Since the Treadwell project, Memphis officials are undertaking a city-wide pedestrian study building on the work started by Safe Kids and FedEx.
Jennifer Shiberou, Treadwell Elementary PTA President said parents are breathing a sigh of relief. “I’ve seen a big difference in the way the traffic flows in the mornings and in the afternoons. At first it was very chaotic, people driving both ways down a one-way street, people dropping children off in the middle of the street and now the process is much more orderly. The crosswalk has made a big impact on the students’ safety.”
The Treadwell project is just one of many that FedEx and Safe Kids have collaborated on over the years. “Our program with FedEx takes us into 10 countries outside of the United States and it’s really exciting,” said Carr. “We’ve had 15 years of a great working relationship with FedEx, and it has helped us to educate millions of kids around the world in countless numbers of schools, so it’s a vitally important program.”
Watch the video here: Memphis Task Force at Treadwell Elementary School