Children's fear in traffic and its association with pedestrian decisions

Academic Article


  • Introduction: Research on risk for child pedestrian injury risk focuses primarily on cognitive risk factors, but emotional states such as fear may also be relevant to injury risk. The current study examined children's perception of fear in various traffic situations and the relationship between fear perception and pedestrian decisions. Method: 150 children aged 6–12-years old made pedestrian decisions using a table-top road model. Their perceived fear in the pedestrian context was assessed. Results: Children reported greater emotional fear when they faced quicker traffic, shorter distances from approaching traffic, and red rather than green traffic signals. Children who were more fearful made safer pedestrian decisions in more challenging traffic situations. However, when the least risky traffic situation was presented, fear was associated with more errors in children's pedestrian decisions: fearful children failed to cross the street when they could have done so safely. Perception of fear did not vary by child age, although safe pedestrian decisions were more common among the older children. Conclusions: Children's emotional fear may predict risk-taking in traffic. When traffic situations are challenging to cross within, fear may appropriately create safer decisions. However, when the traffic situation is less risky, feelings of fear could lead to excessive caution and inefficiency. Practical applications: Child pedestrian safety interventions may benefit by incorporating activities that introduce realistic fear of traffic risks into broader safety lessons.
  • Authors

    Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Wang H; Morgan C; Li D; Huang R; Schwebel DC
  • Start Page

  • 56
  • End Page

  • 63
  • Volume

  • 76