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. Tetley Redrose

    Thank you Tracey. Canadians are not typically careless drivers unlike most Americans either. I find Canadian drivers have a tendency to drive slow regardless – which drives me bonkers when I go home, having learned most of my bad habits after driving for years in Miami.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. Gregg3Gs

    This is the stupidest idea I have ever heard of. Once drivers realize it's a ruse they will start to ignore it. What makes this "experiment" so asinine is they plan to leave this up for only a week, a period during which the image would still be new to most drivers. Sure, during that short period, you will see results, but leave it there for six months and see how fast it becomes ineffective.

    The real tragedy will be when real little kids get hit because drivers refuse to be "tricked" by what they think is just a decal. That's what happens when you cry wolf. That's like putting up "construction zone" signs when there isn't really any construction. But these are things that Preventable either didn't think through or chose to disregard.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:20 am | Report abuse |
  3. Roy

    There was a similar optical illusion that looked like a giant sinkhole in the road. Somebody will get killed behind these. If anyone's ever experienced vertigo, it's a truly difficult set of moments where reflexes and involuntary movements compound problem situations. This is stupid. Hopefully, someone isn't squinting to see this ahead and miss a real child entering their now neutralized peripheral vision.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  4. Derek

    Good thing they used a white child.. any other color and people would be speeding up.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  5. Marcello

    Other comment. Let's stop instead to put so many stop signs everywhere!!
    People are more careful if there are NO stop signs at all, because they become RESPONSIBLE FOR WHAT THEY ACTUALLY SEE.
    While this sounds so obvious in Italy, here it looks just a strange theory.
    I can hear the argument. Many car accidents in Italy and people driving like crazy... but this is for other reasons i.e. that culturally to drive as fast as you can is considered good by many.
    More signs make just this situation worse.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. Tetley Redrose

    This is only a stupid idea if it were applied in the US, because American drivers are stupid to begin with.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
  7. John

    Anyone fooled into thinking this is a real kid would be so addled that they shouldn't be driving anyhow. For sane motorists, this is a good reminder that they should be paying attention.

    I'd rather take the opposite approach. Death penalty for all cases where a child is killed in a vehicular homicide/manslaughter in a school zone. Loss of vehicle or some other heftily overblown fine when caught speeding in a school zone. Publicize the heck out of it.

    I bet people will be watching from that point on.

    Arguements against?

    Q: What if someone isn't paying attention?
    A: They are driving a 1 to 2 ton death machine. This is more scary to me than those so called "assault weapons" that are just semi-automatic rifles. Haven't seen many crimes committed with those in the US. Anyone not paying attention while operating a machine that can easily kill people should not be allowed to operate one. Period. I have already had the licenses of two elderly people in my subdivision repealed after several incidents where each has nearly ran over people on the side of the road and driven into the grass. This is a boon, as less people driving means an increased need for public transportation means less pollution means better world. Bonus.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  8. JoeR

    GREAT idea on the surface, but instead of "shocking" drivers:

    Obviously, if this 2D paining/art can "pop up" into view of approaching drivers, why not have the common-sense alternative of the same idea in large 2D text and colors that is easily seen, stating something like "Watch out for children", or "Careful! Children may be at play" - JUST enough text to be fast-read, make drivers more attentive, without taking drivers concentration away from careful driving.


    September 12, 2010 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  9. tatertawt

    i think it's useless. after the first couple of times they are going to drive right over it without giving it a second thought. also, why would you want them to get used to an image like that? Wouldn't it keep you from truly reacting when the real thing happens? "oh it's just an illusion"....thump!......not cool!

    September 12, 2010 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
  10. sam

    I don't believe what the so called experts say. Some poor old guy going to see it and slam on the brakes and get rear ended. Then have a heart attack. Not a good idea.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  11. Bud

    I wonder how many of the idiots that (incompetently) claim that drivers WILL NOT become desensitized to these illusions (and end up hitting a REAL child) are among the same people who claim that violent video games desensitize children to violence?!?!?!

    September 12, 2010 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. Spud J Dog

    I was leaning toward agreement with most of these people posting regarding people becoming desensitized. When I actually watched the video on YouTube I immediately realized that this is indeed an excellent idea. People won't be fooled twice, however, they can't avoid seeing it as they drive. What they will do then is say, "Oh yeah, the fake girl. Still, I should drive carefully lest I hit a real child." They can miss signs BESIDE the road though because they don't appear in front of them. Even warning signs like "Slow Down" painted on the road are not read because people have read them too many times and don't take the time to actually read what it says. Also, what if they can't read English! Very likely these days.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  13. Bad Driver

    I would see this little girl so much that I would get used to running over little girls thinking they are just pictures.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. sim

    This is an exceedingly bad idea and a lawsuit waiting to happen.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. BraveFart

    I want one for my street!

    September 12, 2010 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
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