Why Crossing the Street is Difficult for Children

Fagjun | Published 2017-04-23 08:27

There's now a scientific reason why children shouldn't cross streets alone.

Up to a certain age, children lack the perception and motor skills necessary for safely crossing the street.

Walking across a busy road may be quite easy for adults, but it's not as simple for kids. We can perhaps remember tightly holding our parents' hands as we crossed streets when we were younger. We may also remember our parents warning us against going off to the road or crossing it by ourselves.

Our parents had good reason to hold our hands while crossing the street when we were younger. According to a new study, up until we're in our early teens, risks are high that we may meet an accident as we cross the street.

Accidents While Crossing the Street

Researchers set up a realistic simulation wherein children from the ages of six to 14 had to cross a nine-foot wide lane of a busy road. There was also a control group of adults. The participants had to cross the lane while vehicles moving at 25mph were driving by. 25mph is speed at which cars usually drive in residential areas. The cars drove by about two to five seconds apart.

The six-year-olds had an 8% chance of meeting an accident while crossing the road, which is a pretty high number. Eight-year-olds had a 6% chance of meeting an accident, while 10-year-olds had a 5% chance. 12-year-olds had a 2% chance of getting hit by a car, while the 14-year-olds and the adults didn't meet any accidents.

This shows that as children grow older, the chances of getting into an accident while crossing the street go down. According to the results of the study, only by age 14 do children gain the skills to cross roads safely.

Two variables influenced the probability that children will be able to cross the street without getting hurt. These variables are perceptual ability and motor skills. Perceptual ability pertains to the ability to perceive the gaps between cars. This entails taking a number of factors into account, like the distance of an oncoming car and its speed.

Motor skills, meanwhile, are what enables children to know how quickly they should step off the sidewalk after a car passes by. Younger children struggle with their motor skills, which gradually develop as children grow older.

How to Protect Children from Accidents

In 2014, the National Center for Statistics and Analysis reported that there were 8,000 injuries and 207 fatalities among pedestrians 14 years old and younger. Researchers say that children at these ages can understand the pressure of crossing the street without waiting, though they don't have the skills to do so. This combination is what puts children in danger.

Children also learn how to cross the street from adults, but the problem is that they don't have the necessary motor skills to cross the street like adults. The researchers recommend that parents should teach children to watch for gaps larger than those that adults choose to cross through. Local governments and civic planners can also make crossing the street easier and safer for children by installing pedestrian crossings and stationing a crossing aid.

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