A new study suggests that children may be taking greater risks than many
parents think when crossing the street. The results are concerning given
that children are among the most frequent victims of pedestrian crashes.
In 2012, more than one-fifth (22 percent) of the traffic fatalities in
the 14-and-younger age group were pedestrians, according to the National
Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA).
In the most recent study, researchers used a 3D virtual reality system
to assess younger (7–9 years) and older (10–12 years) children’s
crossing behaviors. Researchers measured how many seconds the virtual
cars were from hitting the children when they crossed the street. Next,
they put parents in identical circumstances and asked them to identify
when their kids would attempt to cross. The goal of the study was to compare
parents’ expectations for their children crossing streets with children’s
actual crossing behaviors and determine how accurately parents judge their
own children’s pedestrian behaviors to be.
Overall, the study found that parents significantly overestimated their
children’s pedestrian safety skills. As
Reuters reports, the younger children attempted to cross the street when an approaching
car was about 2.95 seconds away. Meanwhile, their parents predicted that
they would allow for a gap of 4.19 seconds. Older children waited for
a 3.03 second gap on average, while their parents believed that they would
allows for 3.85 seconds to pass. Overall, six percent of the children
were struck by an approaching vehicle.
The study, which was
published in the journal
, notes that the children’s decisions in the virtual reality environment
may not exactly mirror real-life situations. They also speculate that
the suburban subjects may be less savvy than their urban counterparts.
Nonetheless, the results are still concerning.
“If parents are not adequately supervising when children cross streets,
they may be placing their children at risk of pedestrian injury because
they are assuming their children will select larger (safer) inter-vehicle
gaps when crossing than children actually do,” the researchers warn.
For tips on child pedestrian safety, we urge parents to check out our post
“Could Your Kids Pass a Pedestrian Safety Pop Quiz?”