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222 Tacoma students hit by cars in 4 years; new initiative to ensure safety

TACOMA, Wash. – In just a four-year span, 222 Tacoma students were hit by cars while walking or biking to school between 2010 and 2014.

That’s why the city of Tacoma and the school district started a “Safe Routes to School” initiative.  It focused on educating students and drivers and building better infrastructure to make commuting safer.

“Look both ways, walk on the sidewalk,” said Tacoma elementary school student Elijah Carbajal.

Words of wisdom from 9-year-old Elijah Carbajal.  He walks to school every morning with his dad, Joe Carbajal.

“It’s that little bit of exercise to get the fog and the cobwebs out,” said Joe.

But some mornings, they almost didn’t make it.

“We’ve nearly been hit a few times on our way to school and we only live a few blocks from school,” said Joe.

It’s not just happening in Tacoma  -- kids have been hit by cars in Renton and Seattle within the last year as well.

“We need to look at a comprehensive program for safe routes to school,” said Tacoma senior engineer Jennifer Kammerzell.

That’s why Tacoma and the school district held an open house asking people about the obstacles that stand in their way and encouraging dialogue and promising solutions.

“Putting in missing sidewalks, maybe there’s a gap on the block, installing curb ramps if you have a disability or if you’re using a bike you can actually cross a street, maybe it's marked crosswalks or flashing beacons,” said Kammerzell.

“The signs that register your speed or a little bit more law enforcement or presence there,” said Joe Carbajal.

All of those changes would require money.  The ‘Safe Routes’ committee hopes to have a plan in place by March, request grant funding, and have some improvements made by next school year.

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