Childen age four to six

McCook, Nebraska

Children who are four to six years of age are entering a time when their physical and mental abilities allow basic walking safety skills to be introduced, discussed and practiced. This age group needs to walk with an adult who will make safety a priority.

Young pedestrians are at particular risk of injury from running into the road from between parked cars or other obstacles for several reasons. First, it is hard for children in this age group to see oncoming cars because obstacles, such as parked cars, often block their view of traffic. At the same time, they are still learning how to use their peripheral vision and how to use the information they see to identify oncoming cars (David, Foot, & Chapman, 1990; Maurer & Lewis, 2001).

While young children usually wait for a longer period of time before crossing than older children, there may be a delay between the time a young child decides it is safe to cross the street and when he or she actually starts to cross (Barton & Schwebel, 2007). Due to that delay, it may no longer be safe to cross because motor vehicles may be closer than when the child first decided to cross (Thomson, 2006). Young children are also at risk for traffic-related injuries because without training or prompting they may not fully understand why traffic situations are dangerous (Ampofo-Boateng & Thomson, 1991; Hill, Lewis, & Dunbar, 2000).

Distraction and impulsivity also are contributors to unsafe behaviors because they can affect a child's decision-making process while walking and may lead to unsafe crossing choices or other unsafe pedestrian behavior (Briem & Bengtsson, 2000; Barton & Schwebel, 2007; Demetre & Lee, 1992; Foot, tolmie, Thomson, McLaren, & Whelan, 1999; Pasto & Burack, 1997). For example, a child who chases a ball into the street does not automatically realize that they have gone from playing in the yard to running in the street.

While children are becoming more physically independent, they still are influenced by, and depend on, parents and caregivers for guidance and assistance in their everyday lives. As with all children, parental supervision is an important factor in decision-making for safe walking (Barton & Schwebel, 2007; Zuckerman & Duby, 1985). Adult-led instruction and modeling of safe pedestrian behaviors can help children learn by giving an opportunity for discussion about the safety of real-world walking situations (Percer, 2009; Thomson et al., 1998).