Children's perception of safety and danger on the road
This thesis examines aspects of children's road safety awareness in relation to road crossing. The principal concern is with children's ability to discriminate safe from dangerous road crossing sites and their ability to select safe routes to cross the road. The influence of age, sex and specific road environmental features (hedges, bends, junctions, parked cars and zebra crossings) on safety judgements are explored. Children's judgements were obtained in a variety of experimental situations including table-top models, photographic posters and the real-world traffic environment. The results showed no sex differences in children's understanding of road dangers, but very significant age differences. Five and seven year olds used as their main referent the presence or absence of cars on the road to determine whether a situation was safe or dangerous. Other dangers, for example, an obscured view, were ignored. They were also inclined to select the shortest and most direct route as the safest. Nine and eleven year olds by contrast reasoned that even without cars on the road some crossing sites and routes were potentially dangerous because they did not permit an adequate view of the roadway. They also noted more varied and relevant road features in estimating safety and danger. On the basis of the findings, a preliminary training scheme was designed using a large table-top model to see if the younger children's skills could be improved. The results of the training were encouraging; the implications of the findings for child pedestrian research and training are discussed. Other psychological factors which may facilitate or hinder child pedestrians ability to identify safety and danger in traffic are also considered.