Background Austrian children start attending school at the age of six. During 4-year primary school pedestrian traffic accidents increase, peaking in the second grade. Traffic safety education methods at school as well as parents themselves seem to overestimate children’s skills in identifying safe and dangerous traffic situations.
Methods We selected 289 pupils from three primary schools in Styria covering urban and rural traffic areas. These children were subdivided into four age groups spanning one year each. The test series consisted of 4 different samples (a traffic mat, a simulation, photos and live action video) with 10 recognition tasks for each (5 safe, 5 unsafe traffic situations) and varying points of view (e.g. from an outside observer, a bird’s eye view and from a child’s point of view). Over two days, each test was carried out by briefed students and with standardised face-to-face interviews of approx. 20 minutes.
Results Only 75% of the questions were answered correctly, correlating with a clearly defined age trend: the younger the children, the more likely they were to base their assessment of the degree of danger on one single factor: the presence or absence of a vehicle on the road. The percentage of correct answers was higher in older children but all age groups had the most difficulty interpreting the sample from their own points of view. It was easier for children to identify the dangers from an outsider’s perspective. In addition, the best performance was shown when using live-action videos.
Conclusions The younger the children, the more difficult it is for them to identify dangerous situations on the road. From the age of 10 onward they are able to interpret most traffic situations correctly, but fail 20% of the time. Hence parents should be informed of the benefit to accompanying their children in the first few weeks of each primary school year and advised not to overestimate their child’s traffic-assessing skills.
For traffic safety education purposes it is essential to develop materials consisting of live-action videos and showing the same scenery from different points of view. That way, children will be able to look beyond an obstacle, to think ahead and increase their overall traffic safety.
- traffic safety
- pedestrian safety
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