Kids Under 14 Are Not Safe to Cross Busy Roads Alone, and Scientists Explained Why
Statistics say that during the last several years 40,000 people have suffered annually in road accidents in the US, including drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. We all know that roads are dangerous and it bothers us even more when it comes to children crossing busy streets. Scientists from the University of Iowa have studied psychological and behavioral aspects that influence child safety on roads, and their conclusions are pretty interesting.
Here at Bright Side we’ve studied the theory explaining how children’s behavior on the road changes with age, and here’s what we’ve learned.
According to scientists, kids and adults cross the road differently.
For any adult, crossing the street on foot seems like an easy thing to do. We look around, analyze the traffic, calculate the time we need to cross the road, wait for the needed traffic gap, and go. For a child, however, it’s anything but simple. During experiments, scientists from the University of Iowa came to the conclusion that kids in their pre-teen years can have difficulties identifying gaps in traffic that are large enough to cross the road safely.
The thing is that young children may not have developed the necessary motor skills that adults have that allow them to cross the street right after a car has passed. “Some people might think that younger children are able to perform like adults when crossing the street,” says Jodie Plumert, professor of the University of Iowa. “Our study shows that this is not necessarily the case on busy roads where traffic doesn’t stop.” Even though most of the kids chose the same gaps in traffic as adults, they cannot time their movement through traffic as well as adults can.
In the experiments, 6-year-old kids had a higher risk of getting injured on the road, while kids above the age of 14 had zero risk.
The team of university experts invited children who were 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 years old along with a group of adults to participate in the experiment. The participants were placed in a simulated 3-D road traffic environment, where each of them needed to cross the road with a string of running vehicles. The time between the vehicles differed from 2 to 5 seconds, and each person needed to cross the road 20 times. The results of the experiments were pretty interesting.
It turns out that 6-year-olds were “struck” by vehicles 8 percent of the time; 8-year-olds, 6 percent, 10-year-olds, 5 percent, 12-year-olds were “struck” 2 percent of the time, and kids aged 14 and older had no accidents. It can be explained by the fact that by the time a child turns 14, they gradually develop the 2 most important skills for safe road-crossing:
- They become better at analyzing the gaps in traffic.
- They are quicker at stepping onto the street after a car has passed, compared to younger children.
The results of the research obviously imply that parents of younger kids should take extra precautions.
What do experts recommend?
Scientists believe that it’s better to be patient when it comes to letting your kid cross the road solo until they reach a certain age. When you teach your kid to cross the street, encourage them to choose gaps that are much larger than those you would choose for yourself. Urban planners and city authorities can also do a lot to guarantee child safety on roads. The places where kids are most likely to cross the streets (for example, because it’s the fastest route to school) should be equipped with a pedestrian-crossing aid.
Do you think parents should be wiser when letting their kids walk alone? How old were your kids when you let them cross the street on their own? Tell us in the comments!