There were two pieces of advice moms universally give their children-don’t run with scissors, and to look both ways when you cross a road. Research from the University of Iowa indicates that the latter piece of advice is especially important, as it appears that children “ lack the perceptual judgment and motor skills to cross a busy road consistently without putting themselves in danger.” Children from the ages of 6 to 14 years were placed in a realistic “simulated environment” and asked to cross one lane of a busy road several times. The video below shows one child taking part in the road simulation
“The crossings took place in an immersive, 3-D interactive space at the Hank Virtual Environments Lab on the UI campus. The simulated environment is “very compelling,” says Elizabeth O’Neal, a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences and the study’s first author. “We often had kids reach out and try to touch the cars.”
The results: When facing a “string of approaching virtual vehicles travelling at 25 miles per hour (considered a benchmark neighbourhood speed) , children had to cross a nine foot road 20 times. Researchers found that six-year-olds were struck by vehicles 8 per cent of the time; 8-year-olds were struck 6 per cent; 10-year-olds struck 5 per cent of the time, and 12-year-olds were struck 2 per cent. Children aged 14 and older had no accidents. With 8,000 injuries and 207 fatalities involving children under 14 in the United States in 2014, this study showed that perceptual ability and motor skills are not as developed in children, and they need larger gaps in traffic to access traffic speed and have compromised crossing ability.
“They get the pressure of not wanting to wait combined with these less-mature abilities,” says Plumert, corresponding author on the study, which appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, published by the American Psychological Association. “And that’s what makes it a risky situation.” Recommendations include educating children to be more patient waiting, and requesting city planners to demarcate intersections where children will cross with age appropriate “crossing aids”.