Stop, look, listen, and think? What young children really do when crossing the road

M. Suzanne Zeedyk, Linda Wallace, Linsay Spry

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    60 Citations (Scopus)


    This study sought to provide basic information about children's behaviour in realistic traffic situations. Most literature in this area has focused on children's knowledge about road safety or has assessed their behaviour in simulated traffic environments. However, until more is known about what children actually do in traffic environments, our ability to identify the important elements for inclusion in educational programmes remains limited. Fifty-six children, aged 5–6 years, took part in a ‘treasure trail’ activity in which they were confronted with two road crossings, one at a T-junction with a moving car and the other between parked cars. Children's performance was videotaped and coded for relevant behaviours such as stopping at the kerb, looking for traffic, direction of gaze, and style of crossing (i.e. walking vs. running). Results revealed that performance was extremely poor. Sixty percent of the children failed to stop before proceeding from the kerb onto the road. Looking for oncoming traffic was exhibited by no more than 41% of the sample, dropping to as low as 7% in some instances. When looking did occur, it was initially as likely to be in the inappropriate direction (i.e. to the left) as in the appropriate direction (i.e. to the right). Consideration of individual performance revealed the existence of individual differences within the sample; such differences were relatively stable across the two road crossings. These findings, based on controlled naturalistic tasks and detailed observational methods, build on earlier studies that are generally able to provide only estimated rates of children's behaviour.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)43-50
    Number of pages8
    JournalAccident Analysis & Prevention
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2002


    • Children’s behaviour
    • Realistic traffic situations
    • Controlled naturalistic tasks
    • Detailed observational methods


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