The Role of Skills, Attitudes and Perceived Behavioural Control in the Pedestrian Decision-making of Adolescents Aged 11–15 Years (Road Safety Research Report No. 68)

  • Published: University of Strathclyde prepared for the Department for Transport, 2006
  • Authors: A. Tolmie, J.A. Thomson , R.O’ Connor, H.C. Foot, E. Karagiannidou, M. Banks, C. O’ Donnell and P. Sarvary
  • Date Added: 15 Mar 2013
  • Last Update: 15 Mar 2013
  • Format: pdf


Attempted to unravel which factors (road crossing skills, the change in road environment exposed to around primary and secondary schools, the gap between perceived and actual skills, and a bias towards risk-taking) contributed most to increases in unsafe pedestrian behaviour between the ages of 11-15 years old.

  • Study 1 - Focused on whether young adolescents have limited skills for dealing with complex traffic environments; and whether they underestimate the difficulty of road-crossing decisions, and ignore signs that their performance is less adequate than they believe.

  • Study 2 - Was designed to investigate the source of young adolescents’ misperceptions of difficulty with crossing behaviour, and the relative impact of these and other attitudes or perceptions on decision-making.


Study 1 - Used computer simulated problems to compare performance/skills of 11 year olds at primary school with 12-15 year olds at secondary school on route planning, visual timing, use of crossings and perception of drivers’ intentions.

Study 2 - A sample of 12-15 year old pupils, drawn from secondary schools in the same area as Study 1 were assessed through computer-based testing on perceptions of difficulty of the tasks in Study 1, their attitudes and perceptions to specific behaviours, influence of parents and peers, their own experiences in terms of road traffic incident history, and socio-economic and exposure profiles.

Key Findings:

  • Consistent trend among young adolescents towards a careless approach to the task of crossing the road, driven by a perceived lack of caution in the behaviour of their peers.

  • Few adolescents showed markedly positive attitudes to hazardous behaviour, but they were pulled towards riskier attitudes, intentions and actions – and increased carelessness – by the perceived presence of an element of risk in peer behaviour and attempts to be like them.

  • Performance on the simulated problems themselves showed that secondary pupils possessed only slightly better skills than primary school children, and that they were notably poorer than adults.

  • Difference in complexity of road environment around secondary schools results in a steep increase in risk of injury for only a moderate increase in risky behaviour.

  • A busier traffic environment, greater independence to travel alone or as part of a group (rather than with parents), partially undeveloped skills, mistaken perceptions of competence, inattention to feedback and peer pressure to behave more carelessly all implicated in increased risk for 12-15 year olds.

  • Methods of intervention to reduce risk:

    • Parental crossing behaviour, is more effective with younger children and skills must be learned early;

    • Pedestrian crossing skills learnt at an early age;

    • Encouraging reflection (thinking before acting likely to result in more cautious behaviour than spontaneous action); and

    • Distorted impressions of riskiness of peer behaviour (they take more risks than me) is evident but needs further investigation.

  • Little evidence that teens deliberately seek danger, but misperceptions and poorer processing on available social and traffic related information result in increased carelessness in potentially hazardous environments.


Adolescent road safety, Attitudes, Perception, Risk


Robust, although based on stimulated problems rather than problems encountered in the real world.