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University of Iowa Simulator Measures Kids’ Abilities to Safely Cross the Road

IOWA  --  From early on, children are taught to look both ways before crossing the street. But are they really listening?

The University of Iowa wanted to find out, and the school's research may shed some light on just how safe kids are when it comes to crossing the street, as KWWL's Jalyn Souchek reports.

"The general consensus is that kids--young kids--can cross the street by themselves, and while many young kids are completely capable of doing that, I think what this study tells us is that maybe on a busy road crossing situation parents need to be aware that kids might not be as a good as they think they are at crossing the road," said Elizabeth O'Neal of the University of Iowa.

Kids ages 6, 8, 10, 12, and 14 were put through a simulation of a high-traffic neighborhood, in which traffic does not stop and cars move at only 25 miles per hour. It is up to the children to decide when it is safe to cross.

The study does not only focus on whether the kids look both ways before crossing the street, it also looks at how much time they give themselves between cars before making their way across.

"Adults tend to cut in really closely behind the first car and the gap they've chosen to cross through, which leaves them with more time to spare once they reach the other side," said O'Neal. "However, kids aren't cutting in as closely as adults, therefore ending with a riskier crossing."

Researches say the study will not have all the answers, and it is still up to parents to decide what their children are capable of.

"Encourage kids to navigate road crossing in a safe way. Go to a marked crosswalk when one's available. Go to the stop sign if there's one nearby. Go to the intersection even it means being just a little bit out of the way," said O'Neal.

The results from the simulator showed 6-year-olds were hit by vehicles eight percent of the time, eight-year-olds six percent of the time, 10-year-olds five percent, 12-year-olds two percent, and by age 14 there were no accidents.