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. Dr. Mitchell R. White

    This appears to be a good idea, until you consider: If it's always there, drivers will habituate on the idea that they can keep driving. That is, they'll soon learn it's a "trick" and then when there's a real child in front of them, they may not process properly. The fable about the boy who cried wolf is based on sound psychology...

    September 12, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bruce Scott

    Oh here is a great idea; lets train drivers in school zones to ignore the image of a little girl playing in the street. That way when they see the real thing they will take those extra few seconds to react and maybe run over the real thing. Are you people nuts?

    September 12, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  3. Lisa

    It's got you thinking about it doesn't it? Next time you're driving through a school zone, isn't this going to come to mind and influence the way you drive?

    September 12, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Dave

    I think they should have a 3D picture of a gecko instead.

    September 12, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. Gerald

    I think it is an interesting idea but not the right thing to do. Confusion by drivers will cause unexpected things to happen. I think it will cause accidents.

    September 12, 2010 at 12:33 am | Report abuse |
  6. AtheistRE

    Great Idea, get people use to running over children

    September 12, 2010 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  7. Gerald

    It might also take your eyes off the real child crossing the street.

    September 12, 2010 at 12:37 am | Report abuse |
  8. greg

    Yeah,
    Clever until people stop flinching when they see a girl in the road, and cruise right through.

    September 12, 2010 at 12:43 am | Report abuse |
  9. Another shocked person

    This is stupid! A big SLOW DOWN sign on the ground will be more effective. My goodness, they don't know how to spend their money? give it to meeeeeee!!!!

    September 12, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. Observer One

    would love to be a lawyer on this.. Judge, my client is not responsible for ramming into that car he was trying his best to avoid an OPTICAL ILLUSION placed there by the city, approved for by the city. This is just a simple plan for the city to generate more money for police , auto repair shops, and insurance companies. Hmm I wonder if our insurance covers deliberately placed OPTICAL ILLUSIONS. Is the driver at fault for trying to avoid it or the company that puts it in place or the city for condoning it...

    September 12, 2010 at 1:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. mathisworks

    This illusion technique serves to promote the organization and the local government. No matter the motive, it's still a guerella marketing technique that distracts drivers. A dangerous road to go down. Saying that it attracted attention and got people talking doesn't come close to justification.

    September 12, 2010 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
  12. Eric

    This is one of the more ridiculous concepts I've seen relating to traffic safety. The special people behind this creation obviously didn't assess the situation at all. Let's do that now - it's a school zone, known for regular daily bumper-to-bumper traffic, often saturated with young drivers (if the school zone in question pertains to a middle school and/or high school,) who are often doing anything BUT paying a proper amount of attention to the road (cell phones, stereos, friends, food, etc.) What a run-on sentence of problems! I'm willing to bet this stretch of road sees a fender bender pile-up before the week is over.

    September 12, 2010 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. w myers

    What about traffic cameras? Issue tickets.....this works to slow people down in the USA.......sometimes

    September 12, 2010 at 1:22 am | Report abuse |
  14. 8andSkate

    This is a horrible thing.

    September 12, 2010 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
  15. Sean in AZ

    This might be one of the dumbest things I have ever seen. What happens at night when someone driving a car comes up on this nonsense and swerves off the road to avoid hitting the "kid". I see many lawsuits coming out of this. Stupid. Just stupid.

    September 12, 2010 at 2:13 am | Report abuse |
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