Teaching children to cross streets safely: a randomized, controlled trial

Health Psychol. 2014 Jul;33(7):628-38. doi: 10.1037/hea0000032. Epub 2014 Jan 20.


Objective: Child pedestrian injury is a global public health challenge. This randomized, controlled trial considered comparative efficacy of individualized streetside training, training in a virtual pedestrian environment, training using videos and Web sites, plus no-training control, to improve children's street-crossing ability.

Methods: Pedestrian safety was evaluated among 231 7- and 8-year-olds using both streetside (field) and laboratory-based (virtual environment) trials before intervention group assignment, immediately posttraining, and 6 months posttraining. All training groups received 6 30-min sessions. Four outcomes assessed pedestrian safety: start delay (temporal lag before initiating crossing), hits/close calls (collisions/near-misses with vehicles in simulated crossings), attention to traffic (looks left and right, controlled for time), and missed opportunities (safe crossing opportunities that were missed).

Results: Results showed training in the virtual pedestrian environment and especially individualized streetside training resulted in safer pedestrian behavior postintervention and at follow-up. As examples, children trained streetside entered safe traffic gaps more quickly posttraining than control group children and children trained streetside or in the virtual environment had somewhat fewer hits/close calls in postintervention VR trials. Children showed minimal change in attention to traffic posttraining. Children trained with videos/websites showed minimal learning.

Conclusion: Both individualized streetside training and training within virtual pedestrian environments may improve 7- and 8-year-olds' street-crossing safety. Individualized training has limitations of adult time and labor. Virtual environment training has limitations of accessibility and cost. Given the public health burden of child pedestrian injuries, future research should explore innovative strategies for effective training that can be broadly disseminated.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Attention
  • Child
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Health Promotion / methods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Safety*
  • User-Computer Interface
  • Walking / education*
  • Walking / injuries
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control