Kids take more chances crossing streets than parents think
New research conducted by scientists at the University of Guelph in Ontario suggests that children may have difficulty gauging how far cars are from an intersection or how long it takes them to safely cross the street.
The researchers used virtual reality to see how often kids might walk into oncoming traffic in real life. Study participants wore headsets outfitted with a 3-D display and motion sensors to detect every real step they took into virtual streets. Participants stood at an intersection on a virtual two-way street with sidewalks, enhanced by traffic sounds that got louder as cars approached. After a trial run for the children to practice using the equipment, the researchers asked kids to cross the virtual street when they thought traffic conditions were safe. Researchers measured how many seconds the virtual cars were from hitting kids when they crossed the street. Then, they put parents in the same situation and asked them when they thought their kids would attempt to cross.
The results showed that parents generally expected their kids not to cross the street when an oncoming car was less than four seconds away, while the children crossed into traffic with tighter gaps of about three seconds. Children were hit by virtual cars about six percent of the time.
The study’s authors note that it's possible that the children took more risks in the virtual world than they would in real life and that perhaps the participants weren’t as street savvy as kids and parents who live in busy cities. Regardless, the researchers emphasized the importance of teaching traffic safety lessons to children at a young age and not being overly optimistic about a child's judgment.