BACKGROUND: Increasing children's active travel to school may be 1 strategy for addressing the growing prevalence of obesity among school age children. Using the School Travel Survey, we examined South Carolina school district leaders' perceptions of factors that influence elementary and middle school students walking to school.
METHODS: Frequency distributions and chi-square tests were used to analyze the survey responses; open-ended questions were reviewed qualitatively for recurring topics and themes.
RESULTS: School and district leaders (N = 314) most often reported street crossing safety (54.0%) and number of sidewalks (54.0%) as priority factors that should be addressed to increase students' active travel to school, followed by distance to school (46.0%), traffic volume (42.4%), parental attitudes (27.0%), traffic speed (26.7%), neighborhood condition (24.4%), and student attitudes (10.0%). Several respondents expressed concerns about liability issues related to students' active travel to school while others reported that schools are not responsible for students' safety once students leave school grounds. Independent of their comments about liability, respondents were concerned about the safety of students while walking to school.
CONCLUSIONS: Those promoting active travel to school may benefit from addressing those factors perceived as most important by school and district leaders, including street crossing safety, number of sidewalks, and by educating school and district leaders about liability and safety issues related to students walking to school.