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Kids can't safely cross road before 14: Study

Children contend with two main variables when deciding whether it is safe to cross a street researchers said.

Kids can't safely cross road before 14: Study
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New York: Parents, take note! Do not let your child cross the road until they turn 14, as they may lack the judgement and motor skills to safely navigate through a busy street, a new study warns.

Researchers from University of Iowa in the US placed children in a realistic simulated environment and asked them to cross one lane of a busy road multiple times.

They recruited children who were 6, 8, 10, 12 and 14 years old, as well as a control group of adults.

Each participant faced a string of approaching virtual vehicles travelling about 40 kilometres per hour (considered a benchmark speed for a residential neighbourhood) and then crossed a single lane of traffic (about nine feet wide).

The time between vehicles ranged from two to five seconds. Each participant negotiated a road crossing 20 times, for about 2,000 total trips involving the age groups.

Children contend with two main variables when deciding whether it is safe to cross a street researchers said.

The first involves their perceptual ability, or how they judge the gap between a passing car and an oncoming vehicle, taking into account the oncoming car's speed and distance from the crossing.

Younger children, had more difficulty making consistently accurate perceptual decisions, researchers said.

The second variable was their motor skills - How quickly do children time their step from the curb into the street after a car just passed?

Younger children were incapable of timing that first step as precisely as adults, which in effect gave them less time to cross the street before the next car arrived, researchers said.

Researchers found that six-year-olds were struck by vehicles eight per cent of the time and eight-year-olds were struck six per cent of the time.

About five per cent of the 10-year-olds and two per cent of the 12-year-olds had accidents.

Those whose age was 14 and older had no accidents, researchers said.

"Children get the pressure of not wanting to wait combined with these less-mature abilities and that is what makes it a risky situation," said Jodie Plumert of University of Iowa.

"Most kids choose similar size gaps (between the passing car and oncoming vehicle) as adults, but they are not able to time their movement into traffic as well as adults can," said Elizabeth O'Neal of University of Iowa.

The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance.

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