By Bay City News Service:
Community leaders in the San Ramon Valley are getting creative to drill into students the dangers inherent to biking, walking and driving around traffic.
Street Smarts, a partnership between law enforcement, the San Ramon Valley Unified School District and elected leaders from San Ramon, Danville and Contra Costa County, is kicking off its ninth year of traffic safety campaigns in local schools.
"Unfortunately we all know, probably by name, too many instances where children have been tragically injured or killed in this community because of a bike or a car accident," said Terry Koehne, one of several School Smarts program advisory committee members who presented this year's program at a news conference in Danville today.
For the ninth year, local elementary school students will submit drawings for a valley-wide illustrated storybook about traffic safety. Last year, the contest drew some 400 submissions, San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson said.
Other elements of the spring program will include an "It Happens" campaign in which high school students will create ad campaigns to promote different ways of getting to school, from carpooling and driving to walking, skateboarding and biking.
Local middle school students are set to create 60-second public service announcements in Street Smarts' annual "Be Reel!" video contest. This spring's contest will follow the theme "Model the Way," encouraging older students to teach younger kids about bike and walking safety, program members said.
Street Smarts is funded with federal money under the Safe Routes to School program and with money from participating organizations and sponsors including State Farm Insurance and Sunset Development.
Koehne said the program grew out of a collective desire to address the ongoing problem of traffic accidents in the community involving children.
San Ramon police Lt. Dan Pratt, who also spoke at today's news conference, said distracted walking and biking led to the bulk of traffic incidents involving pedestrians and cyclists in San Ramon last year, many of those involving children.
In one incident, a car ran over and dragged a juvenile riding a bicycle. The child had been reading a text message on his phone and pedaling along when the collision occurred, Pratt said.
"Luckily, he was not seriously injured," he said. "But you really don't want to rely on luck when your life is at stake, so we encourage people to pay attention."
In addition to traffic safety contests, this year's Street Smarts program will feature a walk/bike challenge in which students log the number of days they walk, bike, carpool or take the bus to school.
County Supervisor Candace Andersen said the contest is part of a Safe Routes to School initiative to encourage students to use safe alternative modes of transportation "besides the backseat of their parents' car."
In addition to promoting traffic safety, the idea is to get kids to be more active, she said.
More information about Street Smarts can be found at www.street-smarts.com.
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