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. platofish

    What a stupid idea – to have people become accustomed to driving over a 'child' in the middle of the road. Pretty soon their brain won't scream 'brake' when its a real child, since they have to drive over several 'childrend' every day! Massive fail.

    September 12, 2010 at 10:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. SerialSpencer

    what if you drive on the opposite side of the road. i wonder how it would look then.

    September 12, 2010 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. irencuhsbvjsabfwefsd

    A problem with this--if the method is widely adapted, reckless drivers will get used to seeing 3D images and plow right through them. What's to prevent these drivers from plowing right through real kids, thinking that they're merely road paintings?

    September 12, 2010 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Wesley B

    This is a stupid idea. It will wind up desensitizing people to seeing children in the road, just like people are largely desensitized to a whole host of other road and traffic signs.

    As to all the "you shouldn't be speeding in a school zone anyway" arguments...what, this illusion ONLY works during school hours? Maybe you always have to go 15 MPH in front of a school in Canada, but in the US it is generally only during school hours (and usually only in the morning and afternoon). At night, on weekends, in the summer, speed limits may be 30, 40, even 50 MPH. So yeah, on a Saturday evening in July when someone is going 50 MPH and swerves or suddenly hits the breaks, something bad very well could happen.

    It is an interesting gimmick to draw attention to the problem, if it is a problem, but if put into widespread usage I have to think it will cause more problems than solutions.

    September 12, 2010 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. Chuckd

    There is nothing "3D" about this at all. It is simply a perspective drawing that, when viewed from one very specific spot, with one eye closed, would look simliar to what a "real" object would look like from that same spot with one eye closed. Stand anywhere else or look at it with both eyes and the effect is lost. The camera that took the photo has to be in that exact location as well for the effect to work. These sort of images, like the many "sidewalk art" photos that are all over the internet may appear interesting in a photograph but look very different in real life. At best, this particular image would appear as a distored blob up until the driver approaching it reached the focal point, and then would start becoming a distorted blob as they passed that point. And we can only hope they are not driving with one eye closed to begin with.

    September 12, 2010 at 10:51 am | Report abuse |
  6. Danny

    "Is that a real kid? Na, probably just a chalk drawing... Floor it!"

    September 12, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. william

    Does the little girl's outfit change with the seasons? During holidays is a large dog used? Are there other children playing on the other side of the road? Is it true that originally a nun was going to be used because it was a Catholic school, but some drivers actually sped into her (I am Catholic so save the anti Catholic comments, I love nuns I live like one)? Honestly I see nothing but problems with this. Stop picking on 85 year olds, there are plenty of bad drivers of all ages.

    September 12, 2010 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. scroo yoo

    If this is causing any drivers problems then those drivers shouldnt be driving to begin with.

    There is enough traffic as is-take the bus you lousy drivers

    September 12, 2010 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  9. W0NK042

    So how long do we give it before a child (or person) IS hit & the driver says "Oh. I didn't stop because I thought it was one of those optical illusion things".

    September 12, 2010 at 12:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. EM

    "..or brake abruptly in a school zone.." -– um, isn't that what we want them to do??

    September 12, 2010 at 1:40 pm | Report abuse |
  11. EM

    "..I see a kid in the street I would slam on the brakes and swerve to avoid hitting the fake kid.." -– the kid doesn't just suddenly appear instantaneously !
    The image slowly starts to appear, then gradually gets 3D, then goes under your car. If you can't perceive that as you are driving, then you are obviously not paying attention to the road in front of you -– and you don't deserve the right to drive! Get off the road and take a bus!

    September 12, 2010 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  12. wildcatherder

    Even in the YouTube video, it's clear that unless you only have vision in one eye and drive five miles an hour, the "illusion" last less than second. Besides, do we really need the extra traffic in the school zone of people driving through just to check it out?

    September 12, 2010 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Al Brown

    wouldn't it be just as effective and less of risk to unsuspecting drivers if it were off to the side of the road?

    September 12, 2010 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Paul

    Are any points awarded in Deathrace 2010 for illusion children?

    September 12, 2010 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Wastrel

    "As you're driving over it, it'snot like driving over a little girl." Did he really say that?

    September 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
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