September 9th, 2010
07:11 PM ET

3D illusion in street tries to change drivers' attitudes

The 2D decal becomes a 3D illusion as drivers approach it.

What would happen if you saw a 3D illusion of a young girl chasing a ball across the street near a school? 

A Canadian safety group hopes you'd slow down and think twice about speeding through a school zone. Critics of the image say it might scare drivers and lead to accidents. 

Either way, she's got your attention, which is the point, said a spokesman for Preventable, a British Columbia-based safety awareness group behind the stunt. 

"This is a way to reinvigorate what becomes a pretty tired message every year. We become anesthetized to the risks related to driving, but the risks are very real, especially in British Columbia, where we have more than 400 fatalities each year related to motor vehicles," said David Dunne, Director of the Traffic Safety Foundation and spokesperson for Preventable. 

Video: Will drivers stop for 3D illusion? 

The 45-foot, heat-treated 2D decal will stay on a busy intersection near the Ecole Pauline Johnson in West Vancouver for a week. The illusion's debut on Tuesday coincided with the start of school year, when children are at the greatest risk of pedestrian-related injuries, Preventable says on its website. 

The group, which uses guerrilla marketing in campaigns focusing on preventable injuries, developed the image with the support of the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation, the District of West Vancouver, School District #45 West Vancouver, and the West Vancouver Police. 

With the help of a Youtube video that shows how it appears to an approaching driver, the illusion has sparked intense debate in British Columbia and outside Canada, with some claiming it could lead drivers to swerve or brake abruptly in a school zone. 

But Preventable says a detailed risk assessment was undertaken to address such concerns. 

Before drivers approach the image, they pass a "School Zone" sign, crosswalk, an extended curb and a sign by Preventable that reads, "You’re probably not expecting kids to run out on the road." 

The figure begins to take shape from about 50 feet away and appears in 3D for another 40 feet until the driver it about 10 feet away, where the image recedes into a "blob" on the street," Dunne said. 

"As you’re driving over it, it's not like driving over a little girl. The illusion, as it appears, looks like a cartoon, I've likened it to the difference between a photo and a cartoon." 

Preventable and its partner groups are monitoring the image to ascertain  how it affects drivers' behavior. In the meantime, the attention it has drawn has accomplished its intended effect,  said Dunne. 

"If hundreds of people were killed each year in British Columbia because of the airline industry, we wouldn't accept it. And these injuries and fatalities are preventable," he said. 

"We need to change people's attitudes to really change their behavior. Sometimes you have to get in people's faces to change their attitudes."

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Filed under: Canada • Child safety
soundoff (547 Responses)
  1. Jeff

    So what happens if the driver swerves out of the way and causes an accident, or worse yet kills somebody in the process of swerving out of the way?

    September 10, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  2. NMCB

    finally, an excuse to run over some kids AND have a defense.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  3. HandBanana

    Now that I have read this article, I will just assume that anything in the street that looks like a child is one of these optical illusion things. Therefore, I think I will gun it.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • HandBanana

      F*** this kid. VROOM!!!

      September 10, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. globalblog

    I think it is a great idea! This is something new and am sure people will get used to this very soon. Anyways schools zones are supposed to be a slow speed zone so there is no question of slamming a break and skidding!!

    September 10, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
    • TwM

      No not a great idea. Stupidest idea ever. Here is why: Driver all of a sudden sees it and swevers into a tree or fence. OR into a real group of children. Second, drivers will get used to it and no longer think about it and some child will actually go running across and the driver won't think about it and hit them. He/she will think it was one of these decals.
      Best yet the driver will have a defense that is ready made, I assumed it was a decal i slowed down but wow I hit a real child. UTTER FAIL.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. Lohocla

    I've seen all the replies that focus on "thinking it's a real kid" and cause an accident. Haven't seen any who think the real kids the "illusion" and drive right over it.

    Good idea on paper, but when dealing with idiot drivers, there's no foolproof answer other than outlawing cars or outlawing kids.

    Loh

    September 10, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  6. J

    If you want to slow people down in a school zone, tricking them is not the way to do it. While I somewhat agree that drivers may become desensitized, or that they may over-react and cause other damages, it seems rather counter-intuitive to me to provide drivers with misinformation – the exact opposite of everything else we try to do, make them more aware of the road. Illusions are deceptive by nature. We already have a technology that no one really becomes desensitized to... how about some speed bumps?

    September 10, 2010 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. reese

    People will become desensitized to these decals after a while, and then what happens when a child is really chasing a ball into the street?

    September 10, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. Pete

    Don't you guys have speed cameras over there?

    September 10, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  9. Donio

    This is fantastic!!! Sence police can't be setting on every street 24/7 this is a great idea. I hope they can be put in every houseing addition with a 25 mph speed limit. Or make the penalty for speeding a 1,000 fine.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. NRIdiots

    The NRA would have you believe we just need to arm these kids with guns so they can protect themselves from drivers about to hit them.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. Leslie

    I think this is a great idea ! You shouldn't be going faster than 30 Km in a school zone anyway.( Where this image is placed ) So if you end up in an accident you are going too fast and if you can't react without causing an accident going only 30 .. you really shouldn't be on the road to begin with . It will remind those drivers they are in a school zone since apparently they aren't reading the road signs if they are going faster than 30 . Its not like the image suddenly appears on the road . You see it from a distance .. when you are up closer you can't see it .. so if you cannot react in time ???? Seriously people .. get off the road then . My child will be safer then !

    September 10, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • NMCB

      but what if some old confused guy who doesn't notice it until hes very close, then tries to swerve out of the way and hits a kid on the sidewalk?

      September 10, 2010 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
  12. totalwarfare

    Why not use the same technology to write "SLOW, SCHOOL ZONE" on the street? Makes better sense than running over a child image!

    September 10, 2010 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Big Al

      Most already do. The test being done does not in order make the results of the test clearer.

      September 10, 2010 at 9:32 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jeff

    I Live in Floriida and pass a school zone every work day on the way to work. There are a lot of really old people on the roads down here. I could easily see one of these drivers obeying the school zone speed limit (15 mph), see the decal, get confused, and swerve into oncoming traffic and cause a serious traffic accident. If I thought it was a child, I would swerve out of the way. Bad idea, and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. Big Al

    What's the point in speculating if it will reduce or increase accidents. They are doing a test run with it to determine the result. Who cares what you *think* will happen. Just wait and find out.

    September 10, 2010 at 9:29 am | Report abuse |
    • NMCB

      aren't you supposed to do a test run before real world application?

      September 10, 2010 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  15. apelow

    real bright idea ...........now once people get used to this and ignore it ,someday a real kid will be in the road and they will not slow down thinking it is fake

    September 10, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
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