Inexperience and risky decisions of young adolescents, as pedestrians and cyclists, in interactions with lorries, and the effects of competency versus awareness education

D. Twisk*, W. Vlakveld, J. Mesken, J.T. Shope, G. Kok

*Corresponding author for this work

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Background: Road injuries are a prime cause of death in early adolescence. Often road safety education (RSE) is used to target risky road behaviour in this age group. These RSE programmes are frequently based on the assumption that deliberate risk taking rather than lack of competency underlies risk behaviour. This study tested the competency of 10-13 year olds, by examining their decisions as pedestrians and cyclists in dealing with blind spot areas around lorries. Also, the effects of an awareness programme and a competency programme on these decisions were evaluated. Method: Table-top models were used, representing seven scenarios that differed in complexity: one basic scenario to test the identification of blind spot areas, and 6 traffic scenarios to test behaviour in traffic situations of low or high task complexity. Using a quasi-experimental design (pre-test and post-test reference group design without randomization), the programme effects were assessed by requiring participants (n = 62) to show, for each table-top traffic scenario, how they would act if they were in that traffic situation. Results: On the basic scenario, at pre-test 42% of the youngsters identified all blind spots correctly, but only 27% showed safe behaviour in simple scenarios and 5% in complex scenarios. The competency programme yielded improved performance on the basic scenario but not on the traffic scenarios, whereas the awareness programme did not result in any improvements. The correlation between improvements on the basic scenarios and the traffic scenarios was not significant. Conclusions: Young adolescents have not yet mastered the necessary skills for safe performance in simple and complex traffic situations, thus underlining the need for effective prevention programmes. RSE may improve the understanding of blind spot areas but this does not 'automatically' transfer to performance in traffic situations. Implications for the design of RSE are discussed. Copyright © 2013 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)219-225
Number of pages7
JournalAccident Analysis and Prevention
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


  • Blind spot collisions
  • Young adolescents
  • Risk behaviour
  • Proficiency
  • Training
  • Evaluation

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