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Roles of individual differences and traffic environment factors on children’s street-crossing behaviour in a VR environment
  1. Huarong Wang1,
  2. Zhan Gao2,
  3. Ting Shen2,
  4. Fei Li3,
  5. Jie Xu3,
  6. David C Schwebel4
  1. 1 Traffic Psychology,Institute of Special Environmental Medicine, Nantong University, Nantong, China
  2. 2 School of Information Science and Technology, Nantong University, Nantong, China
  3. 3 Xinlin College, Nantong University, Nantong, China
  4. 4 Psychology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Huarong Wang, Traffic Psychology, Nantong University, Nantong 226019, China; yeluo801004{at}


Objective Pedestrian injuries are among the most common cause of death and serious injury to children. A range of risk factors, including individual differences and traffic environment factors, has been investigated as predictors of children’s pedestrian behaviours. There is little evidence examining how risk factors might interact with each other to influence children’s risk, however. The present study examined the independent and joint influences of individual differences (sex and sensation seeking) and traffic environment factors (vehicle speeds and inter-vehicle distances) on children’s pedestrian safety.

Methods A total of 300 children aged 10–13 years were recruited to complete a sensation-seeking scale, and 120 of those were selected for further evaluation based on having high or low sensation-seeking scores in each gender, with 30 children in each group. Children’s pedestrian crossing behaviours were evaluated in a virtual reality traffic environment.

Results Children low in sensation seeking missed more opportunities to cross and had longer start gaps to enter the roadway compared with those high in sensation seeking, and these effects were more substantial when vehicles were spread further apart but travelling slowly. Interaction effects between inter-vehicle distance and vehicle speed were also detected, with children engaging in riskier crossings when the car was moving more quickly and the vehicles were spread further than when the vehicles were moving quickly but were closer together. No sex differences or interactions emerged.

Conclusion Both sensation seeking and traffic environment factors impact children’s behaviour in traffic, and there are interactions between traffic speeds and inter-vehicle distances that impact crossing behaviour.

  • virtual reality environment
  • pedestrian crossing behaviour
  • individual difference
  • Traffic environment

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  • HW and ZG contributed equally.

  • Contributors HW and DCS conceptualised the study. ZG and TS developed the VR traffic environment system. FL and JX conducted the experiment, and collated the data. HW conducted the analyses and drafted the manuscript. DCS provided assistance and advice on data analyses. ZG and DCS reviewed and revised the manuscript.

  • Funding This work was supported by the MOE (Ministry of Education in China) Project of Humanities and Social Sciences (grant number 16YJC880072), and was also partially supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the US National Institutes of Health under award number R01HD088415.

  • Disclaimer The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Approval for the research was obtained from the Nantong University Academic Ethics Committee and the Primary Education Office of the participating school.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available on reasonable request.