Using a Virtual Environment to Examine How Children Cross Streets: Advancing Our Understanding of How Injury Risk Arises

J Pediatr Psychol. 2016 Mar;41(2):265-75. doi: 10.1093/jpepsy/jsv078. Epub 2015 Sep 3.


Purpose: To examine how risk of injury can arise for child pedestrians.

Methods: Using a highly immersive virtual reality system interfaced with a 3-D movement measurement system, younger (M = 8 years) and older (M = 10 years) children's crossing behaviors were measured under conditions that introduced variation in vehicle speed, distance, and intervehicle gaps.

Results: Children used distance cues in deciding when to cross; there were no age or sex differences. This increased risk of injury in larger intervehicle gaps because they started late and did not monitor traffic or adjust walking speed as they crossed. In contrast, injury risk in smaller intervehicle gaps of equal risk (i.e., same time to contact) occurred because crossing behavioral adjustments (starting early, increasing walking speed while crossing) were not sufficient.

Conclusions: Dependence on distance cues increases children's risk of injury as pedestrians when crossing in a variety of traffic situations.

Keywords: children; crossing behaviors; pedestrian injury; risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic / prevention & control*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior
  • Comprehension*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cues
  • Distance Perception
  • Environment Design
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pedestrians / education*
  • Pedestrians / psychology
  • Risk-Taking*
  • Safety*
  • Sex Characteristics
  • User-Computer Interface*
  • Walking / education*
  • Walking / injuries*
  • Wounds and Injuries / prevention & control*
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*