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. tuffyturf

    The same thing is already used in California. The difference being, the optical illusion in CA is that of a speed bump, not of a small child. If they put up an optical illusion of a small child in the street, I will collude with my friends to come the other way in vehicles, and I will hit them head on, then sue the State for every dollar they have. That is the dumbest idea I have ever seen.

    September 12, 2010 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  2. kamelred

    would have expected an asinine idea out of the states, but canada, really?

    September 12, 2010 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
  3. Todd

    Stupid. Not even funny as a practical joke. The people this is geared towards are the same people that will not see this until the last minute and then proceed to do something dangerous to avoid the "decal".

    September 12, 2010 at 2:49 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jitin

    its a very bad idea, someone can hit a a real girl/child assuming it to be regular 3D illusion.. cmon guys, speed bump with blinking orange light works...

    September 12, 2010 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  5. Sam

    Once I used to put scare crows to scare birds away from our little wheat plantation, infact the idea works to deter monkeys from feeding away all the harvest even before it is due. Not for long though beuse even these primitive creatures eventually get used to the illusion. Not uncommon actually to see birds perching of the once dreaded scare-scows after they get used to them.

    What am I driving at? The 3-D drawing is a very stupid idea indeed and should be removed immediately before someone runs off a real kid chasing after a ball. The driver would say they thought it was a drawing and I could believe them.

    September 12, 2010 at 2:57 am | Report abuse |
  6. Jewell

    Eventually, drivers will get used to seeing the image and it will be ineffective. What will suck though is if they remove it and a girl with a ball does go out in the street...the drivers will think it is just a drawing.

    September 12, 2010 at 3:45 am | Report abuse |
  7. Canadian Driver

    I live in the area and the school zone speed limit is 30 km/h (18 m/h) however, because of the long straight stretch that runs alongside almost all schools, most drivers drive on average 50 km/h. This is a great way to slow drivers down and will hopefully remind them to slow down in other school zones. The only reason a driver would need to swerve out of the way is because they ignored the prior school zone signs and driving way over the posted speed limit.

    This is purely a reminder to ALL drivers EVERYWHERE to slow down while approaching, in and exiting a school zone. This isn't a permanent fixture; it is only there for a week. I have driven through this area many times and as long as you are driving 30 km/h or slower you realize that it is 2D and not a real child.

    For those who believe drivers will become desensitized to this decal and when a situation does end up in front of their windshields they'll think it's just another decal, you would have to be an idiot if you couldn't tell the difference between the 2D child and a real child.

    Instead of fighting about this just SLOW DOWN!

    September 12, 2010 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
  8. Woody Brown this such a big problem...
    How many Canadian children are run-down by automobiles in a year?

    September 12, 2010 at 4:22 am | Report abuse |
  9. Edwin

    My complaint is that *I* might suddenly react and slam my brakes on, but the person texting behind me might not. Yes, they were driving too fast, but now they hit my car and injured my daughter in my back seat.

    Good job CAUSING accidents, guys! This optical illusion makes good drivers react to something that is not there, taking their minds off real dangers for a small amount of time.

    September 12, 2010 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Dan

    If people will accept this, it'll become commonplace and people will begin to ignore it...and the real thing. Totally irresponsible and criminalistic.

    September 12, 2010 at 4:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lee Bartholomew

    Interesting idea, but there is one caveat. Soon they'll get use to the sign so when there is a real girl, they might slowly driver over her...

    September 12, 2010 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
  12. Terry Matlock

    So what happens when the child is real and a speeder just thinks it's a 3D image and runs the child over? Just a thought.

    Freedom, WI

    September 12, 2010 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. Take it up a notch

    They should take it up a notch and get some holograms, maybe put a holographic baby laying in the street. Ridiculous, if a kid is dumb enough to chase a ball into the street and unlucky enough to have a driver not see them, well, thats just Natural Selection, Darwinism

    September 12, 2010 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. Atherton

    I like the way these Canucks think, in the US we put up a cardboard cutout of police cars Canada takes it one step further

    September 12, 2010 at 6:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jesse

    It will grab drivers' attention from the rest of the road area so if a real child is running across the street, they won't notice even if they are slowing down

    September 12, 2010 at 7:13 am | Report abuse |
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