Virtual Reality by Mobile Phone: Improving Child Pedestrian Safety Pedestrian injuries are a leading cause of pediatric injury. Effective, practical, and cost-efficient empirically- based and theoretically-driven behavioral interventions to teach young children street-crossing skills are needed. Our laboratory has explored virtual reality (VR) as a means to teach child pedestrian safety skills for several reasons, including: (a) it offers children repeated unsupervised practice in pedestrian crossings without risk of injury, (b) it provides automated feedback to children on crossing success or failure, (c) it can be tailored to child skill levels: (d) it offers an appealing and fun training environment, and (e) most recently given technological advances, it offers potential for broad dissemination using mobile phone technology. Previous work indicated VR was an effective pedestrian safety training tool. The present proposal extends previous findings in two critical ways. First, it will evaluate delivery of a pedestrian VR using a mobile phone and the Google Cardboard platform, technology released in 2014 that enables a standard mobile phone to be used as an immersive virtual reality delivery system. Second, it will overcome the limitation of previous research suggesting children learned some pedestrian skills after six 30-minute training sessions in a VR but did not yet master adult-level pedestrian skills. We will implement a randomized non-inferiority trial with two equal-sized groups of children ages 7-8 (total N = 498). All participants will complete baseline, post-intervention, and 6- month follow-up assessments of pedestrian safety and up to twenty-five 30-minute pedestrian safety training trials until they reach adult levels of functioning. Half the children will be randomly assigned to train in Google Cardboard and the other half in an existing semi-immersive laboratory VR. Primary outcomes will be assessed using ANCOVA models.

Public Health Relevance

Pedestrian injuries are among the leading cause of pediatric mortality for American children ages 7-8. This project will study the efficacy of using virtual reality to train children in safe pedestrian behavior. Results will have significant implications for child pedestrian injury prevention.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Research Project (R01)
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Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
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Maholmes, Valerie
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University of Alabama Birmingham
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Wang, Huarong; Schwebel, David C; Tan, Dingliang et al. (2018) Gender differences in children's pedestrian behaviors: Developmental effects. J Safety Res 67:127-133
Stavrinos, Despina; Pope, Caitlin N; Shen, Jiabin et al. (2018) Distracted Walking, Bicycling, and Driving: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Mobile Technology and Youth Crash Risk. Child Dev 89:118-128
Schwebel, David C; Severson, Joan; He, Yefei et al. (2017) Virtual reality by mobile smartphone: improving child pedestrian safety. Inj Prev 23:357
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Morrongiello, Barbara A; Schwebel, David C (2017) Introduction to Special Section: Pediatric Psychology and Child Unintentional Injury Prevention: Current State and Future Directions for the Field. J Pediatr Psychol 42:721-726
Schwebel, David C; McClure, Leslie A; Severson, Joan (2014) Usability and Feasibility of an Internet-Based Virtual Pedestrian Environment to Teach Children to Cross Streets Safely. Virtual Real 18:5-11