Individual differences in road crossing ability in young children and adults

Br J Psychol. 2000 Aug;91 ( Pt 3):391-410. doi: 10.1348/000712600161899.


Young children are more at risk of traffic pedestrian accidents than adults. Previous experiments have failed to show large differences between adults and children in crossing behaviour. The reasons for this are not clear, but it could be that some children are more at risk than others, because of individual differences. These differences have been difficult to investigate in the past. This paper examines a double video technique developed to solve the problems. Two groups of participants, children and adults (mean age 7 years 2 months and 20 years 6 months respectively), were presented with the video and asked to indicate by pressing a button when they would choose to cross the road. Variables measured included the total number of crossings made and the percentage of those that were safe, number of missed opportunities and unsafe gaps chosen, the mean starting delay and gap size chosen, and the correlation between the delay and the gap chosen for each individual. Results showed that, although there were large and significant differences between adults and children on total crossings, percentage safe crossings, mean starting delay and gap size chosen, the structure of the road crossing behaviour was very similar. Children make decisions in the same way as adults, but are less good at it. There were large individual differences, suggesting that some children were more at risk than others, with possible factors being impulsivity and fine motor coordination. It is suggested that the video technique may, with some refinements, make a useful tool to screen children at risk and to use in remedial training.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / physiology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Skills*
  • Sex Factors
  • Spatial Behavior* / physiology
  • Videotape Recording