Development of visual information sampling in road traffic situations
Each year 270000 pedestrians die of road traffic and millions are injured (WHO, 2011). Despite children being largely over-represented in casualties, little is known about the perceptual processes used by children for judgments typically made as a pedestrian. In the present study, we addressed two crucial questions: 1- In road-crossing situations, are children more influenced than adults by specific social and visual saliency features, 2- how does this influence change with age?We recorded the eye-movements of more than 100 children from 5 to 14 years-old and 30 adults while they were watching road-traffic videos on screen and performing a road-crossing decision task. Linear-mixed models showed a strong age effect on crossing decisions and clustering techniques isolated 5-9 years-old children as more likely to cross the road in short gaps. Young children also showed difficulties in inhibiting reflexive orientation responses towards traffic irrelevant distractors. Statistical mapping of eye-movements identified the social and visual saliency features leading to the strongest orientation responses. Our data offer a novel fine-grained description of the visuospatial processes of children's engaged in road-traffic situations. These findings have a profound impact on the understanding of the visual system and road safety issues.