AUSTIN (KXAN) — At least 16 schools in central Texas and 182 in Texas are taking part in National Walk to School Day Wednesday despite thick fog that rolled in overnight.

One of them, Maplewood Elementary School in east Austin, brought together participating families and Austin police officers at Patterson Park early Wednesday morning to finish the walk as a big group, an extra layer of safety during a foggy commute.

The official events are put on by the National Center for Safe Routes to School, an advocacy group that promotes alternatives to driving. Locally, Dell Children’s Medical Center advocates for safe walking and biking through the coalition Safe Kids Austin.

“We’ve heard some feedback over the years that parents didn’t really realize how close their school was or how easy it was to walk to school,” said Carlee McConnell, an injury prevention coordinator at Dell Children’s. “And the kids always seem to love it. Each year they are excited to get up and get going in the morning and have some activity before school starts.”

Most pedestrian deaths involved adults, McConnell said, but every year the doctors at their hospital still treat close to 40 children for pedestrian-related trauma. 

McConnell promotes safer driving to avoid pedestrians, as well as better-designed roads to account for people walking or riding bikes. She also encourages parents and students to figure out safer walking practices, especially in weather that lowers visibility, like fog.

Walking on sidewalks or walking paths is always the best route, she said, and if they’re not available, parents and kids should walk as far to the left side of the street as possible, walking against traffic.

Crosswalks with signals to stop traffic are ideal, but if they’re not available, pedestrians should cross at corners where it’s easier for drivers to see them. For kids under 10, McConnell recommends they walk with a parent, and for kids over 10, walking with a group of friends is safer than going alone.

“I think by having Walk to School Day, we are encouraging kids to get out and walk and also encouraging parents to create, maybe walking school buses or maybe walking as a group,” McConnell said.

Walking school buses consist of a couple parents walking together with a group of kids — like a bus-load headed to school, just minus the bus. It’s also important to realize, especially during foggy conditions, reflective clothing can make a big difference in when drivers see walkers.