Do you and your children know how to be safe along the San Ramon Valley's roadways? To spread the word about traffic safety, officials from Danville, San Ramon and the school district gathered Thursday afternoon to discuss Street Smarts -- a series of programs designed to teach students and drivers the rules of the road.
"We do this event to provide more awareness around traffic safety and how it affects children in our community," said district spokesman Terry Koehne. "We're truly committed to changing the habits of bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers."
Entering its ninth year in the San Ramon Valley, Street Smarts promotes traffic safety among students and community members through various programs, school assemblies, bike rodeos, public events, print publications, and advertising. Thursday's meeting provided an overview of upcoming activities for students of all levels.
San Ramon Mayor Bill Clarkson discussed the storybook poster contest, which encourages elementary students to respond to a story about traffic safety using their art skills. The contest draws hundreds of submissions each year and encourages students to think about more complex safety issues, Clarkson said. This year, students will draw pictures responding to "The Puzzling Parade Problem," by local author Dana Mentink.
"The story is entertaining, educational and encourages participation," Clarkson added. "Children use creativity to interpret the story and create the concepts visually and we know that no two students learn the same way…this is why the contest is so powerful."
Ten illustrations will be chosen for inclusion in the final storybook, which will be unveiled at an awards ceremony on March 14. Entry forms and contest information can be picked up at your elementary school's front office or at the San Ramon or Danville libraries.
Danville Vice Mayor Robert Storer discussed the "Be Reel" video contest, which targets middle school students to create 60-second videos on traffic safety. Students can work in groups of four to create a public service announcement with the theme of older children teaching younger children to walk and bike safely.
"In current world of Youtube videos and smartphones, students in middle school are increasingly learning to connect to the world in online and video interfaces," Storer said. "This contest encourages students to learn video editing software and how to use a camera."
School Board President Ken Mintz described a new direction for the high school-oriented "It Happens" contest. The new project will have participants create slogans and imagery as part of an advertising campaign that sells ways students can safely commute to school, Mintz said. The winner will be featured in own ads that will be on display throughout the San Ramon Valley.
Street Smarts also employs non-contest techniques to teach students traffic safety. Assemblies and "bicycle rodeos" where students can bring their bikes to school to learn safety are just a few ways to learn. The program also highlights safe routes to school so children can avoid busy streets.
"Kids are not riding and walking to school at the same rate they used to. Back in 1969…48 percent of children rode bikes or walked to school, in 2009 only 13 percent of our children were walking or riding to school," said District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen. "At the same time, we're seeing an increase in obesity and other childhood chronic problems. We're also seeing significant traffic congestion around our schools."
To encourage students throughout the district to ride, skate or walk to school, Street Smarts is expanding its walk/bike challenge program to all elementary schools. In the spring, students can log the number of days they arrive to school outside of a car and the school with the highest numbers will win a prize.
"These are some great tools we use to promote and encourage our youth to come to school beside in the backseat of their parents car," she said.
While pedestrians must remain vigilant and cautious, Danville Police Chief Steve Simpkins and San Ramon Police Lt. Dan Pratt offered advice to drivers -- topping the list was to put down cell phones and pay attention.
"At 25 miles per hour, I travel 36 feet a second and it took me about three seconds to answer that text, so I've gone over 100 feet. I want you to imagine being at any of our schools at the valley…that's a very important hundred feet, hundred feet that your children, my children could be walking on," Simpkins said.
Lt. Pratt said that most pedestrian/bicyclist-vehicular collisions happen in sidewalks or at intersections and while pedestrians and bikes may have the right of way, they shouldn't exercise that right boldly. Those not in vehicles should also take off headphones while on busy roads and make eye contact with drivers to assure that they are ready to stop.
"You're not going to win a fight with a 3000 pound automobile. Your responsibility as a person moving across a dangerous area to watch over your own safety," he said. "You as pedestrian, bicyclist or person not in automobile…need to be extra vigilant and alert in the vicinity of other automobiles."