Crossing the street by foot seems like a relatively easy thing to do, for an adult. We look around, analyze the traffic, calculate the time we need to cross the road, wait for the traffic gap, then go. For a child, however, this can be quite a daunting task. Experiments conducted by 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.
This is because young children may not have developed the necessary motor skills that adults have, allowing them to cross the street right after a car has passed. In fact, Jodie Plumert, professor of the University of Iowa states “Some people might think that younger children are able to perform like adults when crossing the street. Our study shows that this is not necessarily the case on busy roads where traffic doesn’t stop.” So, while most of the children did choose the same gaps in traffic as adults, they weren't as able to time their movement through traffic.
Experts at the university invited children aged 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 years old, along with a group of adults to participate in the experiment. The children were placed in a simulated 3-D road traffic environment, where each of them had to cross the road with a string of running vehicles. The time between the vehicles differed between 2 to 5 seconds. Each participant had to cross the road 20 times.
The results showed that 6-year-olds were 'struck' by vehicles 8% of the time, 8-year-olds, 6%, 10-year-olds, 5%, 12-year-olds were 'struck' 2% of the time, and kids aged 14 and older had no accidents. This is likely due to the fact that by the time a child has turned 14, they gradually develop the 2 most important skills for safe road-crossing. Firstly, they become better at analyzing the gaps in the traffic, and secondly, they are quicker at stepping onto the street after a car has passed, compared to younger children. So, it is essential that parents or grandparents of younger kids should take extra precautions.
For this reason, scientists firmly believe that it is better to be patient when it comes to letting your child cross the road alone, and wait until they have reached a certain age. Furthermore, teach your child to cross the street and encourage them to choose gaps that are larger than those you would choose for yourself.