Perceptions of Speed and Risk: Experimental Studies of Road Crossing by Older People

Crossing a road safely is a complex task requiring good sensorimotor function and integration of information about traffic speed, distances and one’s own speed. Poor judgement through age-related sensorimotor or cognitive impairment or a predisposition to take risks could lead to errors with serious consequences. On a simulated road, 85 participants (age ≥70 years) were asked to cross in front of an approaching car with a clearance as small as considered safe in two conditions; (1) with nothing else to attend to (free crossing) and (2) with an additional ball-gathering task while waiting to cross (task crossing). Participants were categorised according to their crossing outcome (failed to cross, ‘hit’, exact, safe, cautious). Participants also performed two sub-studies; (1) the perception of the time-to-arrival of moving objects and (2) the perception of own gait speed. Physical and cognitive function and everyday risk-taking behaviour were also assessed. In free crossing, clearances varied but no participants were “hit” by the car. In task crossing, participants allowed smaller clearances and 10% of participants would have been hit while 13% missed the opportunity to cross altogether. Across a wide range of physical and cognitive measures, including perceived and actual gait speed, a consistent pattern was observed in the task crossing condition. The exact group performed best, the ‘hit’, safe and cautious groups performed less well while those who missed the opportunity (fail) performed worst. The exact group reported taking the greatest risks in everyday life whereas the remaining groups reported being cautious. In conclusion, we found older people with poorer perceptual, physical and cognitive function made inappropriate and risky decisions in a divided attention road-crossing task despite self-reports of cautious behaviour in everyday life.


  • English

Media Info

  • Media Type: Digital/other
  • Features: Figures; References;
  • Pagination: e0152617
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  • Publication flags:

    Open Access (libre)

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Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01601205
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: May 24 2016 9:24AM