News Release: UDOT
I wrote this news release for a class at BYU. The story is about a real mobile app created by the Utah Department of Transportation called the Walking School Bus. This article was meant to be pitched to Utah newspapers.
Keeping kids safe on a school bus without wheels
UDOT creates Walking School Bus mobile application to keep kids safe on the way to and from school
PROVO, Utah—The wheels on this school bus do not go “round and round.” Like most things these days, this school bus exists on your smartphone. The Student Neighborhood Access Program, a program run by the Utah Department of Transportation, has created the first ever Walking School Bus app.
The number one priority for teachers, administrators and parents is the safety of the children. Nationwide, the number of students walking to school has significantly decreased—65 percent in the past 25 years—resulting in an increased number of cars around schools. Having more cars driving around schools is dangerous, as the risk of an accident increases. To address this safety issue, UDOT has created the WSB.
The WSB involves a group of children accompanied by an adult walking or biking to school (‘a carpool without the car’) to ensure child safety on the way to and from school. Inside the app, parents have their children join a group to walk to school with, and parents take turns walking with the group—becoming the bus “drivers.”
Utah Governor Gary Herbert recently joined a WSB group of young students on their morning stroll to school. “Walking and biking to school makes our neighborhoods safer, our air cleaner and our children healthier. It also helps to build a greater sense of community,” Gov. Herbert says. “I encourage all parents who live within walking distance of school to download the free UDOT Walking School Bus app, join or organize a walking group and start the school year off right by making walking and biking to and from school a habit.”
This smartphone app is just that—smart. It reduces emissions and school traffic, and provides peace of mind to parents in an easy-to-use package. With tutorials, options to share via social media, and the ability to text WSB group members directly parents can feel confident that their kids are in good hands.
Downloading the free app saves on gas money and harmful emissions, creating a win-win situation for all involved. “I feel safe, and I like walking with my friends,” nine-year-old Alex Beasley says. “And it also saves gas because you’re not using cars.”
The wheels on the bus have been replaced by the sneakers of Utah’s school children, and that’s good for everyone. Parents can download the app for free on the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.
The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) Student Neighborhood Access Program (SNAP)™ is a fun and comprehensive program for walking and biking safely to school that engages and educates students, parents, school administrators, crossing guards and communities.
As part of the federal Safe Routes to Schools program administered by UDOT, SNAP’s first priority is student safety, with the goal to help make the roads around schools safer.
Under Utah law, all elementary, middle and junior high schools are required to create and distribute a SNAP Plan, which shows the safest routes to school. SNAP provides free resources to assist schools in creating and distributing their SNAP Plan to students and parents, and it works to:
- Increase the safety and health of students
- Decrease traffic congestion around schools
For more information about SNAP and free resources to educate and encourage students to walk and bike safely to school visit www.udot.utah.gov/snap or email firstname.lastname@example.org.