With children around the district returning to school yesterday, road safety advocates were out and about encouraging parents to get their kids biking, walking or scootering to school.

A total of 753,000 pupils from around the country are heading back to school this week, with 78,100 from the Wellington region alone.

Wairarapa road safety council projects co-ordinator Holly McGeorge and manager Bruce Pauling kicked off the school year at Douglas Park School, handing out vouchers to promote healthy ways of getting to school safely.

Masterton police Constable Susan Esler was also on hand helping the children manning the road patrol.


Ms McGeorge said they will be visiting schools around the district this term with goodies including stationery, stickers, and backpack covers to give to parents.

The new school year was a great time for parents to start thinking about how kids travelled to and from school.

"Start the year as you intend to carry it through. It only takes a couple of moments to walk. Kids like being able to walk to school and seeing lots of different things ... it creates independence early on and parents can support them by walking with them."

Walking, biking or scootering to school was not only good exercise but helped ease traffic problems outside schools, Ms McGeorge said.

"It's reducing congestion outside the school gate. It's a narrow little street and if all those cars are parked up, you can see the kids waiting to cross, even though we've got the road patrol."

Parents could start by walking their children to school for a short distance then gradually increase the distance. Finding walking buddies was also a good idea, she said.

"It's just creating a little bit of independence and there's always safety in numbers if kids want to walk together to school."

Mr Pauling said the walk to school was also a good time to explain safe ways to behave on the road, such as not loitering around driveways. "It's an optimum time to do that little trip and talk about safety."

It was worth the extra planning, Mr Pauling said.

"At least twice a day they can be active -- and it's a good way to get involved in the school community."