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Study Finds that Children’s Brains Lack Ability to Gauge Traffic when Crossing

Childs brain

As a responsible parent, you’ve likely spent time training your child in how to safely and responsibly cross the street, both out of an interest in their safety as well as in preventing them from stepping in front of the car of an unwary driver. You might feel confident, after spending time teaching good roadway safety to your kids, letting them walk themselves home from school or the bus stop on their own. A new study shows, however, that young children may lack the neurological capacity to cross the street safely.

Researchers examine the errors children make when crossing the street

The University of Iowa conducted the study on children’s ability to cross the street safely on child subjects aged 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 by using a 3D simulator of a single-lane street where cars were traveling at 25 mph. The study also included a group of adults as a control sample. The children had to decide when it was safe to walk, and would be “hit” by a virtual car if they judged incorrectly.

The study found that six-year-olds were the least likely to make an accurate guess about when it was safe to cross. The youngest study participants were hit 8% of the time while crossing. Eight-year-olds had a slightly better safety rate, getting hit 6% of the time. Ten-year-olds were hit 5% of the time, 12-year-olds were hit 2% of the time, and no 14-year-olds were hit.

The reasons for the high rate of accidents among six-year-olds was found to be their impaired speed and distance perception, as well as their developing motor skills. Six-year-olds were no slower than other children or adults in getting across the street. However, they were more likely to inaccurately estimate the distance between two cars, or to guess wrong at the speed at which a car was traveling. Additionally, even younger children who chose a safe opening between cars were more likely to step into the street too late after the first car had passed, giving them less time between the two cars to get across the street.

Teach kids to cross only at crosswalks, and drive cautiously around young children

Researchers recommend that parents use this information when teaching their children about roadway safety, and when they themselves are the drivers around young children. Parents should insist that children cross at a crosswalk with a signal whenever possible, and to request that cities and towns install marked crosswalks at streets near schools or bus stops where children often cross, in order to prevent them from trying to cross at unmarked crossings. Drivers should be on guard when driving near young children, keeping in mind that they could enter the roadway, believing it is safe to do so when it isn’t.

If your child has been injured in a pedestrian accident in New Jersey, find out if you have a claim for money damages by contacting the experienced and compassionate personal injury lawyer Andrew R. Jacobs for a consultation, at 973-532-9681.

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