Background Pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of child death, and they may be reduced by training children to cross streets more safely. Training is most effective when children receive repeated practice at the complex cognitive-perceptual task of judging moving traffic and selecting safe crossing gaps, but limited data inform how much practice is required for children to reach adult levels of functioning. Using existing data, we examined how children’s pedestrian skills changed over the course of six pedestrian safety training sessions.
Methods As part of a randomised controlled trial on pedestrian safety training, 59 children ages 7–8 crossed streets within a semi-immersive virtual pedestrian environment 270 times over a 3-week period (6 sessions of 45 crossings each). Feedback was provided after each crossing, and traffic speed and density advanced as children’s skills improved. Baseline and post-intervention pedestrian behaviours were assessed in the virtual environment.
Results Over the course of training, children entered traffic gaps more quickly and chose tighter gaps to cross within; their crossing efficiency appeared to increase. Post-intervention performance was superior to baseline and by the end of training, some aspects of children’s pedestrian behaviour were comparable to adult behaviour (e.g., attention to traffic; start delay – the time between safe traffic gaps appearing and children’s entry into those gaps). However, other aspects were not (e.g., collisions with oncoming vehicles).
Conclusions Repeated practice in a simulated pedestrian environment helps children learn aspects of safe and efficient pedestrian behaviour. Six twice-weekly training sessions of 45 crossings each were insufficient for children to fully reach adult pedestrian functioning, however, suggesting longer or more intense training may be needed. Future research should continue to study the trajectory and quantity of training needed for children to become competent pedestrians.
- cognitive development