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Overweight kids at greater risk while crossing road

Overweight Mother and Daughter

New York: Parents may please take note that overweight and obese kids may be more impatient than their peers while crossing the road, and compromise their own safety to expedite the crossing.

In a study involving traffic simulations, researchers found that children with higher body mass indices waited less before crossing, allowed for a smaller buffer of time and distance between themselves and oncoming traffic, and were involved in more collisions in the experimental settings.

Extra weight influences how obese children choose to cross the street, said lead author of the study Elizabeth O’Neal from the University of Iowa in the US.

“Being overweight is putting increased stress on their joints, which is a little uncomfortable,” she said.

“So, they are compromising their safety in order to expedite the crossing,” O’Neal noted.

In addition, obesity in children is associated with deficits in executive functioning, which involves any task that requires planning, organisation, memory, time management, or flexible thinking.

This deficit could explain why participants with higher BMIs were more impulsive and uninhibited during the road crossings, the researchers said.

The study was published online in the journal Accident Analysis & Prevention.

The study involved 206 children between the ages of seven and eight from Birmingham, Alabama.

The children crossed a road in a virtual environment that simulated a crosswalk near a school in the local area.

Outfitted with head-tracking gear, participants stood on a wooden curb and watched traffic displayed on three side-by-side 24-inch monitors.

When they felt it was safe to cross, the children stepped down onto a trigger plate that launched an avatar that crossed the simulated roadway.

The avatar was programmed to move at each child’s typical walking speed, based on multiple trials before the experiment.

The children completed 30 road crossings that were randomly presented at three levels of difficulty.

The researchers found that obese children were less cautious than their peers when crossing the virtual roadway.

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