Ghent student trains children to recognise traffic dangers


A PhD student is using training videos to teach young cyclists how to spot and react to hazards in the road

Most at risk

A PhD student from Ghent University has developed a method of making children more aware of the dangers they face while cycling. Because younger cyclists are at higher risk of being involved in a traffic accident, Linus Zeuwts first examined how nine-year-olds divide their attention in traffic.

The children took part in interactive videos putting them in dangerous traffic situations, and Zeuwts measured their eye movements and reaction speeds. His test showed that children analyse traffic situations more slowly than adults and so react less quickly. They don’t yet fully appreciate which signals are important and how situations develop, meaning they have difficulty in anticipating dangers, Zeuwts said.

To teach children which visual information they should use to assess dangerous situations, he went on to develop a training programme that helps children determine what to do in specific situations: slow down, brake or move out of the way.                                                                              

Afterwards, the trainer points out the signals shown in the video. A two-hour training session was sufficient to make the children better detect risks and react to them more quickly.

Previous research has shown that children between nine and 15 are vulnerable on the road, because they are starting to cycle independently and cover longer distances. Cycling accidents in Flanders often occur on the way to or from school.

Photo courtesy Vital Cycling Power