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Why children struggle to cross busy streets safely!

Adults can easily crossing the street by foot and can calculate the time it will take. “Some people think younger children may be able to perform like adults when crossing the street,” says Jodie Plummet, professor in the UI’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences

New research from the University of Iowa conducted in children from 6 to 14 years old in a realistic simulated environment shows that children under certain ages lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to cross a busy road consistently without putting themselves in danger. The researchers found 6-year-olds were struck by vehicles 8 percent of the time; 8-year-olds were struck 6 percent; 10-year-olds were struck 5 percent; and 12-year-olds were struck 2 percent. That age 14 and older had no accidents.

According to the research, in their perceptual ability (how they judge the gap between a passing car and an oncoming vehicle, taking into account the oncoming car’s speed and distance from the crossing), younger children had more difficulty making consistently accurate perceptual decisions. And in their motor skills (How quickly do children time their step from the curb into the street after a car just passed?), O’Neal says, “Most kids choose similar size gaps (between the passing car and oncoming vehicle) as adults, but they’re not able to time their movement into traffic as well as adults can.”

Thus, parents should taking extra precautions. Be aware that your child may struggle with identifying gaps in traffic large enough to cross safely.

One of O’Neal’s recommendations is for parents to teach their children to be patient and to encourage choosing gaps that are even larger than the gaps adults would choose. Also, civic planners can help by identifying places where children are likely to cross streets.

Source: University of Iowa

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