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. Mel

    After reading these posts I have to wonder why so many people get themselves all worked up with thoughts of mayhem happening over this.

    This is a one week long (only) well PUBLICIZED thing that is being done. So that pretty much explains that nobody is going to "become immune" to the image and eventually "Think its just a 3D image and end up running over a real child". Anybody who read the article would know that the image appears flat from a distance, then becomes 3D and before you get to it, appears flat on the ground again. So nobody is going to be running over the image in its 3d state and immunize them to it. Additionally, nobody is going to mistake this image for a real child, as the article clearly states the image also appears more as a "Cartoon" rather than appearing like a regular child.

    I also don't see how anybody is going to "swerve" and "panic". People can clearly see it is flat, then 3d, then flat again. At most, they are going to be thinking afterwards that it is a pretty neat way to get a message across. They may just remember the message it is meant to send, which is to slow down in a school zone and pay attention.

    Rather than being alarmist in ones nature, perhaps a thorough examination of the intention of this concept and how it is as well thought out it is (as if they did NOT think of the baseless concerns expressed by many in these comments?) would honor the spirit of the message being sent. Even those unable to drive by and see it for themselves are talking about this. This article mentions people in other countries talking about it. It is a Canadian city but this article is on CNN and it is read around the world. This means that as the new school year begins, people are talking about safe driving in school zones and this can only be a POSITIVE thing.

    In my city, our school buses have massive pictures of a local boy who was run down and killed after getting off a school bus, with a remember to drive safely and follow the rules of the road to ensure no other child is killed needlessly. It is shocking how often while walking my daughter to school that I see drivers ignoring the school zone signs and ignoring the law regarding stopping for school buses. In spite of the picture of a lost child. I wish that this 3d image concept would be used around my city for a while to remind MY community just what is at stake when someone chooses to try to knock a couple of minutes off of their commute time by ignoring the driving laws.

    September 10, 2010 at 6:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. Jason

    This group would have broken the laws in my state.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. Chaosevil

    How about you lay blame on the parents and or child for playing in a road? Post "No Playground" signs on streets and start issuing kids tickets. Bet that would stop deaths.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  4. Netreacher

    As a grandfather to 8 great kids, as I did with their parents, I make it a point to teach them the rules of the sidewalks & roads as soon as they could take a stroll with me. I would stop at each sidewalks end and explain why they should look both ways for cars. It's up to the parents to teach their kids the dangers. Not just once, but each time they are out with you till it's drilled in. Anything less is poor parenting. I do think this 3D effect is a good idea in school zones, but the real issue here is for drivers to take more responsibility when they are behind the wheel. Too much road rage out there. Leave your bad moods at home.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  5. Josh C

    I wonder what will happen when people realize it's not real and start running it down for fun then one day they think another "image" is real and it's a real child? Think it won't happen? If you don't think that will happen then you've never driven on the streets of America with your fellow Americans.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  6. Allen Wollscheidt

    Grist for lawyers ! !
    .

    September 10, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. Paulie

    So what happens after a "real child" is out in the street, and the drivers, de-sensitized to see this image decide to just keep driving.,....

    September 10, 2010 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Mike

    This is a really dumb idea, they just gave the next hit-n-run driver a great alibi.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  9. DaLuch

    Wonder how many drivers would slam on the brakes & take evasive action, such as plowing head on into the on coming lane.... real safe..

    September 10, 2010 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  10. Jeremy

    They should put a 3D alien in the road so people slow down out of sheer interest and aren't desensitzed to driving over an image of a child.

    September 10, 2010 at 8:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Alan

    How can this not result in conditioning drivers to ignore a real child? This is a well intended but really bad idea.

    September 10, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  12. WhatDis

    I am 7 years old and I am scared of the dead flattened girl in my street. Why no one help her? Mommy!

    September 10, 2010 at 8:18 am | Report abuse |
  13. NutsEnough

    I thought I was losing my mind, but today I KNOW I saw a little girl playing ball in the street but when I slowed down she disappeared. Now, I think I have real mental problems. I'm clearly having hallucinations and handed in my driver's license. Now, my family is starving, we're homeless, and I am unemployed.

    September 10, 2010 at 8:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. RealGenius

    Bravo. They should place these allusions every 10 feet to slow down traffic so NOTHING ever gets done again. They should stagger the offsets too, so drivers have to figure-8 around them.

    September 10, 2010 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  15. jayman419

    There are so many things wrong with this idea, I don't know where to start.

    "I should slow down... but the last couple 'kid in the street"s have been fake... I'll just keep going this time." result: desensitized driver kills real kid trying to get a ball

    "911, what is your..." "I ran over a kid and now I can't find her, she must be tangled up in the undercarriage of my car somewhere!" result: Jane won't drive because she's terrified of the ghost children, emergency services wastes time and effort responding. Jane wonders who would play such a cruel trick and ends up in therapy.

    "Wow, what a neat illusion... I wonder how they..." "Hey buddy, why were you riding your brakes? You trying to kill me? My bumper better not be messed up." result: fender bender, traffic snarl, everyone's time wasted except the insurance company, who find a way to beat paying for the accident because of the "unusual and unpredictable road distractions" so the first driver has to sue the city.

    How about a sign that says "SLOW, CHILDREN AT PLAY" and if that doesn't work, how about a cop to "WRITE TICKETS"?

    September 10, 2010 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
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