We have developed a novel virtual reality system (the only one of its kind in the world) that allows us to track children crossing streets in realistic traffic conditions that are under our complete control. Preliminary analyses involving over one hundred child participants confirmed that several cognitive skills predict different aspects of street crossing behaviors including sustained attention, working memory, and executive functioning. The child pedestrian safety research has tremendous implications for reducing childhood injury. The results will provide essential information on cognitive factors that predict safety practices, and the training program will reveal if we can improve crossing skills with systematic practice. We are currently analyzing our data to determine how cognitive functions relate to street crossing skills, and the training program will be implemented in schools starting in fall 2014.
The CIHR Team in Child and Youth Injury Prevention (STAIR C&Y Team) is a unique collaboration of interdisciplinary researchers and partners who have a common purpose—to generate new knowledge for stakeholders who develop and deliver policy and programs, and advocate for children and youth in Canada.