Impact of a Pilot Walking School Bus Intervention on Children's Pedestrian Safety Behaviors

A Pilot Study

This article examines the impact walking school buses (WSB) programs have on pedestrian safety behaviors (PSB). Using a randomized controlled trial, this pilot study tested the feasibility of a research protocol measuring children’s pedestrian safety behaviors.

Low-income 4th grade elementary students from eight Houston, TX schools were participants in WSB programs. Study staff walked the participants to and from school up to five days a week, modeling pedestrian safety behaviors, including: crossing at a corner or crosswalk; crossing with an adult or safety patrol; stopping at the curb; looking left-right-left; and walking, not running, across the street. All participants were unobtrusively observed throughout their walks during Time 1 (weeks 1-3) and Time 2 (weeks 4-5).

Key Findings:

  • Child pedestrians at intervention schools had five-fold higher odds of crossing at the corner or crosswalk than those at control schools.
  • Child pedestrians at interventions schools had five-fold lower odds of stopping at the curb versus control schools.
  • Neighborhood disorder and number of traffic lanes were not significantly associated with pedestrian safety outcomes.

Individual-level longitudinal tracking is needed to better understand the contribution of WSB programs. The unanticipated decrease in child pedestrians stopping at the curb may be due to the dynamics of a WSB; these programs may require additional modifications to most improve children’s PSB.