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Using Virtual Reality to Train Children in Pedestrian Safety

This study has been completed.
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Information provided by (Responsible Party):
David Schwebel, University of Alabama at Birmingham Identifier:
First received: February 24, 2009
Last updated: December 1, 2014
Last verified: December 2014

Pedestrian injuries are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality in American children ages 7-8, but existing behavior-oriented interventions achieve only modest success. One limitation to existing interventions is that they fail to provide children with the repeated practice needed to develop the complex perceptual and cognitive skills required for safe pedestrian activity.

Virtual reality (VR) offers a highly promising technique to train children in pedestrian safety skills. VR permits repeated unsupervised practice without risk of injury; automated feedback to children on success or failure in crossings; adjustment of traffic density and speed to match children's skill level; and an appealing and fun environment for training. The proposed research is designed to test the efficacy of virtual reality as a tool to train child pedestrians in safe street-crossing behavior.

A randomized controlled trial will be conducted with four equal-sized groups of children ages 7-8 (total N = 240). One group will receive training in an interactive and immersive virtual pedestrian environment. The virtual environment, already developed, has been demonstrated to have face, construct, and convergent validity. The second group will receive pedestrian safety training via video and computer strategies that are most widely used in American schools today. The third group will receive what is judged to be the most efficacious treatment currently available, individualized behavioral training at streetside locations. The fourth and final group will serve as a no-contact control group. All participants in all groups will be exposed to a range of field- and laboratory-based measures of pedestrian skill during baseline and post-intervention visits, as well as during a six-month follow-up assessment. Primary analyses will be conducted through linear mixed models designed to test change over time in the four intervention groups. We hypothesize all children in active learning groups will increase pedestrian safety skills, but the largest increase will be among children in the virtual reality group.

Condition Intervention Phase
Street-crossing Ability Pedestrian Safety Device: virtual pedestrian environment Device: computer and video Behavioral: streetside training Phase 3

Study Type: Interventional
Study Design: Allocation: Randomized
Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
Masking: Open Label
Primary Purpose: Prevention
Official Title: Using Virtual Reality to Train Children in Pedestrian Safety

Further study details as provided by David Schwebel, University of Alabama at Birmingham:

Primary Outcome Measures:
  • Street-crossing Ability [ Time Frame: post-training and again 6 months later ]
    average count of hits/close calls per participant in virtual environment, out of 30 crossings

Enrollment: 240
Study Start Date: October 2009
Study Completion Date: March 2014
Primary Completion Date: May 2012 (Final data collection date for primary outcome measure)
Arms Assigned Interventions
Experimental: virtual reality
street-crossing training in a virtual pedestrian environment
Device: virtual pedestrian environment
a computer-driven virtual pedestrian environment
Active Comparator: computer and video
exposure to training in pedestrian safety via computer software, internet games, and television videos
Device: computer and video
various computer-based and video-based programs such as Otto the Auto and WalkSafe
Active Comparator: streetside training
one-on-one training in street-crossing skills by an adult, at a streetside location
Behavioral: streetside training
one-on-one training by an adult with the child at streetside locations, to teach children street-crossing skills
No Intervention: no-contact control
no-contact control group.


Ages Eligible for Study:   7 Years to 8 Years   (Child)
Sexes Eligible for Study:   All
Accepts Healthy Volunteers:   Yes

Inclusion Criteria:

  • 7 and 8 year old children living in Birmingham, Alabama, area

Exclusion Criteria:

  • family plans to move within 6 months of recruitment
  • visual or perceptual impairment (e.g., blindness) that are uncorrected and would prevent valid participation in protocol
  • physical impairment (e.g., use of wheelchair) that would prevent valid participation in protocol
  • cognitive impairment (e.g., moderate mental retardation) that would prevent valid participation in protocol
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Please refer to this study by its identifier: NCT00850759

United States, Alabama
UAB Youth Safety Lab, University of Alabama at Birmingham
Birmingham, Alabama, United States, 35294
Sponsors and Collaborators
University of Alabama at Birmingham
National Institutes of Health (NIH)
Principal Investigator: David C Schwebel, PhD University of Alabama at Birmingham
  More Information

Responsible Party: David Schwebel, Professor of Psychology and Associate Dean for Research in the Sciences, University of Alabama at Birmingham Identifier: NCT00850759     History of Changes
Other Study ID Numbers: F080715010
R01HD058573-01A1 ( U.S. NIH Grant/Contract )
Study First Received: February 24, 2009
Results First Received: June 17, 2013
Last Updated: December 1, 2014

Keywords provided by David Schwebel, University of Alabama at Birmingham:
pedestrian safety
street-crossing ability
injury prevention processed this record on July 26, 2017