Children: A Critical Link for Changing Driving Behavior

Way To Go! School Program:, York: ttp://
Car emissions have a large impact on children's health. Current public strategies for reducing health impacts have encouraged people to drive fuel-efficient cars, reduce the amount of kilometers they drive per day, and increase physical activity. These tactics are all directed toward adults, while our children, "the next generation", are being overlooked. Research indicates that parents are concerned when they learn about the impacts of cars on children, however, they are currently unaware of these impacts. Way To Go! is a program that has been developed to reduce the impact of cars on the environment through a strategic approach for fostering sustainable behaviour through community-based social marketing. The Way To Go! School program and Active and Safe Routes to School across Canada have been employing the tools of community-based social marketing. The Way To Go! School Program is designed to encourage children to walk, bike, ride-share, and take public transit to school rather than driving. It's goals are to make children happier, healthier and bring them closer to their neighbors. When an individual signs up for this program they receive a Way To Go! kit. This kit provides environmental facts, statistics, and the rationale for a traffic reduction program. It stresses traffic safety information and the importance of choosing the best routes to school. This kit suggests ways to generate enthusiastic and sustainable involvement forms and models to use as the program is implemented. It involves using mapping strategies and the development of safe walking and biking strategies.

Overall, this program has been very positive. Although it was anticipated that the program would be delivered to 300 British Columbia schools during its first year, more than 450 have requested the Way To Go! kit. Some schools say they have seen almost a fifty percent increase in the number of children that are walking to school. One school reduced the number of cars dropping off children from 150 to just four. This program has caused both children and their parents to become concerned about the environmental impact cars are having on the environment. Parents are now becoming aware that their children enjoy walking to school, that their circle of friends has expanded, and their overall physical health is improving. Reportedly, parents were surprised to learn that their children did not know the route home from school, although this may be only three blocks. Fewer cars driving to these schools has resulted in a reduction in vehicle emissions and less traffic congestion, creating healthier, safer school sites. The Way To Go! Program has been a huge success among children and parents. Children are becoming closer to their neighbors and gaining new experiences. Parents are finding that their children are happier, more physically fit and more enthusiastic about life.

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