90 percent of Schoolchildren Can't Cross Streets Safely

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Updated: 12/08/2003 8:58 am

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SAN DIEGO, CA -- Ninety percent of the children who participated in a California Institute of Transportation Safety study do not know how to safely cross the street, according to results released today by the San Diego State University institute.

The study also showed that 50 percent of schoolchildren who walked home did not know their home address. The study participants included 79 children, 5 to 12 years of age, enrolled in a before- and after-school care program at two elementary schools in the mid-city area of San Diego.

SDSU Professor Sheila Sarkar, director of the institute, said the results are surprising and alarming.

"Children are insufficiently prepared to handle the most basic pedestrian tasks, like crossing the street, never mind the deadly hazards found on our city streets every day," Sarkar said. "We have basic training to educate and prepare novice drivers. We should do the same for our novice pedestrians."

In the study, Sarkar and other institute researchers interviewed the children individually. The children were shown photographs of intersections and asked basic questions regarding pedestrian safety, including crossing at corners, using crosswalks and where to look before attempting to cross the street.

Sarkar said the results show slight variations between age groups and genders, but the overriding constant is a distressing lack of skills to safely cross streets. Sarkar said the 8- to 12-year-olds knew more about pedestrian safety than the youngest group of participants, but the difference was slight.

About 12 percent of the older group of children knew how to safely cross the street, compared to 4 percent of the younger group. Fourteen percent of all the boys surveyed knew how to safely cross the street, compared to 5.6 percent of the girls surveyed. While the study does not have a large sample size, Sarkar said it indicates a potentially large problem.

Sarkar said children need to receive more individualized and practical training that will help them respond to various hazards they are exposed to daily walking to and from school. "Most of us informally learned how to cross the street from our parents," Sarkar said. "While that is extremely beneficial, walking on our city streets has become increasingly more complex, and a more formalized pedestrian education program for children would save lives."

The schools selected for the study were chosen because they have a high incidence of automobile collisions involving pedestrians in the area, are in close proximity to heavy traffic areas, and have a large percentage of students who walk to school - nearly 80 percent.

San Diego State University is the oldest and largest higher education institution in the San Diego region. Founded in 1897, SDSU has grown to offer bachelor's degrees in 78 areas, master's degrees in 61 areas and doctorates in 13. SDSU's more than 34,000 students participate in academic curricula distinguished by direct contact with faculty and an increasing international emphasis that prepares them for a global future.

For more information log on to www.sdsu.edu.


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