Why it's so hard to cross to the other side

On the way to preschool every morning, our little one sees a crossing guard waiting for and helping kids that are headed to our local elementary school.

Photo credit: hansboodtmannequins.com


One morning she asked her Dad (the morning drop off king!) why the crossing guard was there and why they were wearing an orange vest. Of course the response involved an explanation of how a crossing guard's job is to keep kids safe as they cross the road on their way to school.

Have you ever wondered why crossing guards are needed? Are you tired of explaining to your kid(s) what they need to do to safely cross a street? Maybe you've felt like this before....

Big Bird forgets how to cross the street. 

Recent research has helped us to understand why kids (and Big Bird) have such a hard time remembering how to cross a street. 

Here's the Main Dish About the Research: 

  • 6- to 14-year-olds were placed in a realistic simulated environment and asked to cross one lane of a busy road multiple times. They also had adults participate to act as a control group. 
  • Each child and adult faced a series of approaching virtual vehicles travelling 25 mph (to mimic a residential neighbourhood) and then crossed a single lane of traffic (about nine feet wide). The time between each approaching virtual vehicle was 2 to 5 seconds. Each child and adult had to cross the road 20 different times. 
  • The youngest kids (the 6-year-olds) were "struck" by vehicles 8 percent of the time; 8-year-olds were "struck" 6 percent; 10-year-olds were "struck" 5 percent; and 12-year-olds were "struck" 2 percent. Those age 14 and older had no accidents.
  • The researchers learned that children had to deal with two things when deciding when to cross the virtual road: (1) perceptual ability (how they judged the gap between a passing car and an oncoming vehicle, taking into account the oncoming car's speed and distance from the crossing) and (2) motor skills (how quickly children timed their step from the curb into the street after a car just passed). 
  • Younger children had a harder time making consistently accurate perceptual decisions and were worse at timing their first step off the curb to cross the street. 

What does this mean for you?

Happy (safe) crossing!