Stop, look, don’t go: Study says children below 14 cannot cross roads safely.


Children below 14 years of age lack the skills needed to safely cross a road, a new study has found. Researchers from the University of Iowa in the US placed children aged 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 as well as a group of adults in a simulated environment and asked them to cross a lane of a busy road multiple times.

Each participant faced a string of approaching virtual vehicles travelling about 40 kilometres per hour (considered a benchmark speed for a residential neighbourhood) and then crossed a single lane of traffic, about nine feet wide.

Younger children, the study found, had more difficulty making consistently accurate decisions. They were incapable of timing their first step as precisely as adults, which in effect gave them less time to cross the street before the next car arrived, the researchers said. The study found that six-year-olds were struck by vehicles 8% of the time and eight-year-olds, 6% of the time. About 5% of the 10-year-olds and 2% of the 12-year-olds were also struck by vehicles. Those who were 14 or older had no accidents, the researchers said.

“Children get the pressure of not wanting to wait combined with less-mature abilities and that is what makes it a risky situation,” said Jodie Plumert of University of Iowa. The time between vehicles ranged from two to five seconds. Each participant negotiated a road crossing 20 times, for about 2,000 total trips involving the age groups. Children contend with two main variables when deciding whether it is safe to cross a street , the study said.

The first involves their perceptual ability, or 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. The second variable was their motor skills - How quickly to time their step from the pavement to the street after a car just passed.

“Most kids choose similar size gaps (between the passing car and oncoming vehicle) as adults, but they are not able to time their movement into traffic as well as adults can,” said Elizabeth O’Neal of the University of Iowa. The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

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