Pedestrian crossing with young children

In 2008, one in every five children between the ages of 5 and 9 who were killed in traffic crashes was a pedestrian

It is important to understand children’s limitations in understanding traffic.

  • Children have a narrower field of vision than adults, about 1/3 less.
  • Children cannot easily judge a car’s speed and distance.
  • Children cannot readily tell the direction a sound is coming from.
  • Children often concentrate on only one thing at a time. This is likely not to be traffic.

Hearing an approaching car is important for pedestrians. A recent study by University of Idaho in Accident Analysis & Prevention suggests that adults hear and detect a car significantly earlier than children.

The experiments showed that detecting and localizing a car varied significantly by age. Children as young as 6 and 7 years old lack the perceptual skills of even slightly older children to interpret important cues, such as engine and tire noises.

Adults detected the vehicle traveling at 5 miles per hour at a distance of about 48 feet, compared with 35 feet for younger children. This means that the vehicle was significantly closer to children than adults when it was detected.

These experiments did not include distractions that normally confront pedestrians, and especially young children.

Source: Accident Analysis & Prevention – Developmental differences in auditory detection and localization of approaching vehicles (Benjamin K. Barton, Roger Lew, Casey Kovesdi, Nicholas D. Cottrell, Thomas Ulrich).

Recommended reading: Kids in traffic – Unbiased news and research about road traffic safety.