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Road to safety

Children aged five to nine may have worse road-safety instincts than their teachers believe, a series of studies by psychology researchers at Warwick University suggests. Although children had a good academic knowledge of what they had learned in road safety lessons, they were often unable to apply that knowledge to real traffic situations. Even nine- and 10-year-olds displayed only half as much unprompted awareness of real traffic dangers as the adults tested in the Department of the Environment funded research. In one experiment, children were better at identifying dangers from line drawings than from video material. The researchers believe the line drawings result in an over-estimatin of the children's concept of danger, as drawings tend to prompt the children by highlighting relevant features.

And while parents try to protect their children from danger, the researchers found some evidence that actual experience of traffic increases children's sensitivity to it. They found that seven- to eight-year-olds with more experience of traffic were able to match the road sense of children aged nine and 10 with more limited exposure to it.

The researchers were Dr George Dunbar, Dr Vicky Lewis and Dr Ros Hill. Further information from Dr George Dunbar, Department of Psychology, University of Warwick. e-mail: on the latest findings

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