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. Chase

    As a professional transportation engineer, this is probably the stupidest thing that I have ever seen, even as a temporary measure.

    From the Ontario Traffic Manual Book 8 – Warning Signs:

    “Warning signs are intended to provide advance notice to road users about unexpected and potentially dangerous conditions on or near the road. The conditions to which warning signs apply typically require that road users exercise caution, and may require that drivers slow down, in order to travel safely in the presence of a hazard.

    In order to retain the public credibility of all traffic control devices, consistency in application is necessary. Insufficient warning signing may leave road users unprepared for encountering hazards, while over-signing or exaggerated signing may result in complacency. It is important, therefore, that warning signs accurately convey the severity of the hazard about which they are warning.”

    Nowhere does it suggest that a warning sign should attempt to shock or surprise drivers into lower speeds. This sign simply adds to the "visual noise" of the roadway, distracting from real hazards.

    A few scenarios immediately come to mind when a driver encounters the sign, all of which are undesirable.

    1. A distracted driver observes the sign with insufficient time to slow down and engages in dangerous evasive maneuvers potentially endangering other motorists or pedestrians around him or her.

    2. Drivers who have not encountered the sign slow down when they see the sign, and then speed up again (likely in an annoyed state) after they realize that it is just an illusion, and not an actual child.

    3. Drivers who have already encountered the sign ignore the sign and continue to drive at their original speed, becoming accustomed to not slowing down for the image of a child on the roadway.

    The fact that no 'erratic' driving behavior has been observed so far is essentially meaningless. It only takes one driver who causes some kind of a collision to create a negative impact that was not there before. The risk introduced by this pavement marking should be completely unacceptable given the virtually non-existent benefit.

    This is just a publicity stunt which will have no lasting effect on driver behavior or speeds on any roads. It is well understood and substantiated by research that the only way to safely change driver speeds for the long-term is to change the perception and geometry of the roadway (e.g. streetscaping, narrowed lanes, speed bumps/humps/tables, bumpouts/chicanes, and/or additional consistent long-term enforcement, etc.).

    There is nothing wrong with trying to bring public attention and education to the very real issue of motor vehicle fatalities and pedestrian safety especially as it relates to children. However, there are better ways to do it without increasing the risk to drivers on the road today.

    September 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert Haas

      SPEEDBUMPS.. the ONLY practical solution to the problem

      September 11, 2010 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mel

    @Victim of democrat hypocrisy

    "Silly Canadians ... wrong decision once again"

    LMAO Last I knew, it was the majority of Americans who voted in the yokel Bush, twice! And it was American business and government and US residents that destroyed their economy and plunged the globe into a major economic crisis. Last I knew, it was silly American corrupt politicians who lied to the UN and the world on national t.v. with fake photos in order to get support for a war that had no merit and was based on alterior motives. Last I knew it was silly Americans who FOUGHT their own government when the attempt was begun to FINALLY join the rest of the developed world in ensuring that all of their citizens had their human rights honored with universal health care policies.

    Yet it is "silly Canadians making wrong decisions once again" ??? I guess it must be another thing that some naive people to the south don't know, that us Canadians have nowhere near the problems your nation is facing. Seems we might just make some good decisions ('EH?").

    As for this story topic, I notice most Canadians posting their support. And most of the naysayers seem to be identifying themselves as Americans. Funny, that! I guess maybe its because were are taught to actually read an article and in doing so, we can see the ridiculous nature of some of the "concerns" expressed by people (such as many in this comments section). Every concern expressed here was absolutely clarified as not a concern if one read the article and perhaps thought about it for a brief moment (might take some longer if they are really lousy at comprehension).

    Thanks for the giggle. You should google the Rick Mercer program on you tube where he went to the US to ask questions about Canada. It is quite funny. It features some really eye opening demonstrations of people you might be friends with.

    PS. Your name has the word hypocrisy in it ... perhaps define the word for yourself as if you are going to imply that Canadians make too many wrong decisions I suggest taking a comprehensive look at some of the more brilliant decisions made by your own nation. You know the ones I mean. THe ones that are causing war and mayhen and financial ruin around the world??

    September 10, 2010 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mel

      I should also point out that I am in no way anti American. I'm simply not naive to the realities of world politics and for a long time now, there's been cause for shame on the part of the collective mind and voting bodies of America.

      September 10, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Tom

    The fact that so many people have made the exact same two or three objections to this on the various websites I've seen the story on, tells me that they're probably common-sense concerns that they probably took into account before putting this thing into effect.

    September 10, 2010 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Bob Camp

    Won't people be focusing on that weird picture in the middle of the road instead watching the whole area? I thought you were supposed to look around so you could see a real kid running towards the road, instead of focusing in just one spot. Wouldn't this be too much of a distraction?

    September 10, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Baldish

    So what if people get used to the idea of a 3d image like this and not slow down for them after a while? They might think an actual kid is just a sticker and Splat!

    September 10, 2010 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MW

    What a brilliant idea! To scare and disorient the operators of 3000 pound high-speed machines, in an area where there really are children around. With the added benefit of desensitizing the drivers, so that after they habituate to the illusions they are less likely to notice a real child. Bravo! What's next from these clever activists? Prank ransom calls to parents, to alert them to the danger of child abduction? Mock executions to raise awareness of capital punishment? Even those wouldn't actually endanger people, as this does....

    September 10, 2010 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. eppademic

    good intention, but bad idea. this could easily cause drivers to slam brakes and cause the person behind them to rear end them , or swerve causing either innocent people on the sidewalk, or their cars to be hit... if they want to bring the speed down, Maryland just set up 12 speed camera'sin school zones, also i know from driving across the country some highways have these sensors set up to show when something has moved into a part of the street in which it could pose dangerous to drivers, mainly it was set up for deer and what not... but if callibrated correctly could it not be used in residential area's for smaller life forms, kids, dogs and cats and such? and the last thing is forget speed bumps, try speed HUMPS, these things are everywhere and slow down alot of cars in my neighborhood, they are anywhere from 4foot to 12foot wide and normally about 4-6 inches in the center. trust me.... they will do damage to your car if you speed over one... our lovely country workers didn't mark one and i came down the street about 10mph over the speed limit, in a rush because a family member was getting rushed to the hospital, and can we say about 2500 dollars in damage... between front bumper, back bumper, and suspension... lastly on the incident, my insurance company refused to pay the bill as i was at fault for speeding, even though i fought with the county and got them to pay for it for not marking it, until a full month later. ( person installing speed hump quit mid-job and county thought he finished the job first)

    anything but putting an illusion of a kid in the street would be a smart idea, making a drive immune to seeing a kid in the street is a plain ole STUPID idea

    September 10, 2010 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Tina

    I personally cannot stand authorities performing psychological experiments on the general public. people have no way of opting out of the experiment which shows Americas gross disregard for experimenting on humans without their consent. What are there occurring side effects of having to finally drive over the image in its latency?

    And will this desensitize certain drivers if the impression seems similar later when a real child is in the street causing them to have to run off the road for laps in reaction.

    IRRESPONSIBLE CHILDREN in grown up bodies, That’s America…

    September 10, 2010 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • myeyedea

      ...I guess it's a good thing they're trying this out in Canada then...

      At any rate, my American neighborhood has 2D/3D speed bumps painted on several roads – they've been down for about 7 months now, and they still work, even on we who live here and go over them frequently. Each time you approach them, you really can't tell if the city hasn't come back and actually built up the asphalt and repainted from the last time you went over it. They work in the day time and even better at night. It's especially effective bc the next "speed bump" you go over is actually a real one, so on any of the blocks where this tactic is being used there's been a great, sustained slowing down of the driving public. I appreciate that kind of psych experiment. But, it's not a child painted into the street, which, yes, could be very distressing.

      September 11, 2010 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Neutrino

    How about a 3D image of a cop pointing a radar gun at you? It's a school zone people. How fast do Canadians drive? Did anyone read the article? Its up for about a week. Also, you think speed bumps aren't dangerous if someone is driving too fast? That can put your car out of control as well.

    September 10, 2010 at 7:51 pm | Report abuse |
  10. VidImaginer

    I was surprises to see so much criticism. I saw the video. I think it is very well done: artistic, in good taste, and NOT distracting. Come on, folks, it's not going to desensitize you, etc.; anyway, it's only going to be "up" for a few days.

    September 10, 2010 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. cindy

    This would cause problems ..for sure...Why would they even think of this?????
    It would scare me ....even it it up for few days,,,, Art work is great don"t get me wrong ,there is a time and place for it ,,,NOT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE ROAD ......

    September 11, 2010 at 12:16 am | Report abuse |
  12. kimsland

    >>>>>>>>> NO <<<<<<<<<

    Now please paint over this distraction before someone REALLY gets hurt.
    And since its suppose to deter drivers from hitting a child on the road, it seems a little bit of a contradiction! Obviously you must run over her to continue on!!!

    September 11, 2010 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jim

    I agree with the traffic engineer below. This is very dangerous self-promoting media attention grabbing ploy by a guerilla marketing firm.
    Intermittent reinforcement is the strongest behavior reinforcement there is. The image will, in the end, intermittently reinforce a non-reaction to the sight of a child in the street. Also, since it will suddenly become a recognizable image, some individuals who have not seen it will inevitably make panic stops or swerves, risking their own safety and the safety of others. If you watch the video (linked to in the article) the sign about the child the one with white letters on black background. It is too much verbiage in too small a print in the periphery of vision to be read before passing by it. It can't even be read clearly in the video. Besides, one is NOT going to read it while focused on some apparent girl in the middle of the street. In fact, the distraction is so compelling that some real sudden hazard, will get missed and someone hurt or killed. How completely senseless.
    Someone is going to use this as a defense in court for hitting a child. They thought it was another of these painted on pieces of marketing campaign.

    September 11, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Silas M

    I'm not too concerned about people screeching to a halt or panicking and swerving onto the sidewalks, since if that happened the people would have to have been 1) been going at least double the speed limit in a school zone 2) been completely not paying attention to the road and then seeing the image at the last second. Either way that person shouldn't be driving. Also judging by the youtube video, there's not going to be some crazy mistaking this for a real person, it's not that realistic.

    That said, the one comment that was mentioned that I think has merit is basically target fixation, people might be fixated on the art causing them to not scan the area for real kids about to cross.

    September 11, 2010 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Lily

    I'd slam on brakes, break my neck and somebody else's too probably. Dumb idea. What about police?

    September 11, 2010 at 7:00 pm | Report abuse |
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