Iowa City - Children are not safe crossing the road alone until they’re 14, research shows.
Their visual judgment and motor skills have not fully developed before then, putting them at risk each time they reach a busy street, according to scientists.
A study using a simulated virtual traffic environment showed up to eight percent of crossings by six-year-olds ended in accidents. Even those aged 12 were struck by vehicles two percent of the time, and had to compensate for their lack of judgment by choosing bigger gaps in traffic.
It was not until early adolescence that youngsters got across without incident, according to the findings published in Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.
Iowa University psychologist Professor Jodie Plumert said: "Some people think younger children may be able to perform like adults when crossing the street. That’s not necessarily the case on busy roads where traffic doesn’t stop."
Crossing roads by foot seems easy for adults who take stock of traffic and calculate the time needed to get to the other side without being hit. Young children, on the other hand, may not have developed the fine motor skills to step into the street the moment a car has passed.
Professor Plumert said crossing with children was risky because they feel "the pressure of not wanting to wait" combined with "these less-mature abilities".
Parents should take precautions to judge if a traffic gap is large enough to cross safely with children, she advised.
About 1500 pedestrians under the age of 15 are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads each year.
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