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Study Examines Children’s Ability to Safely Cross the Street

a little boy pushing crosswalk button

Parents often spend a great deal of time instructing their children on how to safely cross the street, especially in more rural areas where marked or signaled crosswalks may be in short supply. A new study shows that even children who understand the importance of looking both ways repeatedly and being patient in waiting for cars to pass before stepping into the street have difficulty when it comes to judging traffic and getting across a busy street uninjured.

According to the National Center for Statistics and Analysis, there were some 8,000 injuries and 207 deaths in auto accidents involving pedestrians in the year 2014. The recent study was conducted by researchers at the University of Iowa who sought to learn more about how young brains processed traffic when deciding when to cross the street. The study included participants aged 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 years old. The participants were placed in a 3-D simulation of a residential street, where oncoming (virtual) cars were traveling at around 25 mph. According to one of the researchers, the simulation did a good job of emulating the experience of crossing the street: “We often had kids reach out and try to touch the cars,” said the paper’s first author, Elizabeth O’Neal. 

According to the research, the 6-year-old participants were the group most likely to be injured, getting “hit” by simulated vehicles 8% of the time. The 8-year-olds fared slightly better, getting hit 6% of the time. Ten-year-olds were hit 5% of the time, 12-year-olds, 2% of the time, and 14-year-old participants were never hit. The researchers concluded that the youngest study participants were less capable at two key tasks when it came to crossing the street: gauging the space between cars or the oncoming speed of the rear car; and timing their entry into the street to follow immediately after that of a passing car. Most frequently, younger children were found to lack the motor skills to time their step off the curb to coincide with a gap opening in traffic.

In order to keep kids safe, encourage your children to cross at a crosswalk with a traffic signal if at all possible. Also encourage them to find an older child with whom to cross the street, and to choose an even larger gap in traffic than they normally would before stepping into the street. If a street receives a great deal of foot traffic from children, but no crosswalk exists, petition your city or town council to install a crosswalk at that street.

If you or your child has been injured in a pedestrian accident, speak with the dedicated and skilled Bloomingburg personal injury lawyers at Ingber & Provost for a consultation, at 845-733-2720, with additional offices in Poughkeepsie and Pine Bush.