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. Booradley

    It will ony train the public to drive through the :holograms: which is no good.

    September 12, 2010 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Laura Siefert

    This is a short term – and short-sighted – "solution" to the problem of inattentive drivers. Short term, people will take pause, and some will probably do panic stops and cause accidents. But long term, it will desensitize people to looking for children in the street. End result will be that more children could be hit by cars. Eventually, there will be a driver who will say, "I'm so sorry, officer, I thought it was just one of those 3D pictures and not a real child." Nothing can truly replace driver ability and responsibility. If you want to REALLY fix the problem, make driving tests harder, re-test everyone periodically, or at minimum require driver's education for drivers who cause accidents and get serious traffic citations.

    September 12, 2010 at 9:15 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hocus Locus

    After years of natural conditioning based on what you see is what's really there... now we are going to train the driver's subconscious to "cry wolf" ?

    What this will accomplish is drivers in the area will begin to mentally catalog places where these illusions occur, gradually they will revert to their default driving behavior when passing through those areas, despite the presence of of illusory kids.

    By this I do not mean people will speed on through - for most drivers, being reminded there are children present. But sifting reality from clever illusion in this way represents an additional load on faculties of driving. Some drivers will not be up to the challenge, or might be distracted by other non-kid factors... the "it's just a fake kid" neuron will fire anyway...

    Thus, a real kid crossing the street beside the illusion would be in greater peril than if it were not present.

    September 12, 2010 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. ready

    Any real kid in the street in this area is going to get run over since the drivers are going to think it's a 3d illusion. This is just an incredibly dangerous idea.

    September 12, 2010 at 11:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Art G.

    All this will do is put the idea in people's heads that not everything they see on the street is real.

    The fraction of a second it'll take drivers to process,"Real? Or Unreal?" in their heads can make the difference between life and death when a REAL kid runs out in front of them.

    Wouldn't a big, red 3-D "X", or a graphic icon of a child (or even a cow or large boulder) serve equally well as warnings for drivers to slow down?

    One last thing: Driving a car through the image of a child, no matter how "cartoonish", is creepy. We'd be incensed if someone incorporated that scenario into a video game.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. roj

    What if these become so common that if someone sees a REAL child in the street and assumes it is only a painting on the pavement and doesn't stop?

    September 13, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. Art G.

    Instead of a child chasing a ball, show an old leather sofa. Same effect, less risk.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  8. Peter M

    But where's the discussion of Lindsey Lohan in all of this!?!?

    September 13, 2010 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  9. Fred

    Agree, It will initially cause accidents among others who slow down or swerve to avoid it. Eventually it will desensitize drivers to seeing kids in the road and more will be run over.

    This should be rated stupidest "driver safety" idea ever.

    Perhaps this same group of geniuses could create an automated system to call you on your cellphone whenever you're driving to remind you to look out for kids.

    Perhaps that same system could required that you text back "I'm looking" before it will stop ringing you.

    September 13, 2010 at 1:25 am | Report abuse |
  10. Madhav Ojha

    nice concept i like it but this concept should be kept in more and more countries as more and more traffic problem is arising and due to that many peoples round the world are suffering.

    September 13, 2010 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  11. Chase Hamil

    I'd like to have a copy of the "detailed risk assessment" that was taken about concerns that a driver could swerve or brake in a school zone when he/she saw the 3-D image of a child about to be run-over. This is yet another example of mid-level bureaucrats who come up with a hare-brained solution to end all problems – but who haven't devoted ten seconds to the unintended consequences. How about throwing a stuffed dummy of a chilld in front of the car? What if an elderly driver not only swerves, but suffers a heart attack, thinking a child has actually been struck?

    September 13, 2010 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. Rick

    People are going to get use to driving over little girls.

    Adding confusion to anything is a mistake.

    September 13, 2010 at 2:16 am | Report abuse |
  13. toby reese

    Doesn't this just encourage people to be insensitive to images of kids in the street? Like the boy that cried wolf.

    This will not end well.

    September 13, 2010 at 3:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. Aggie

    Why not use a painting of a cop car, or a policeman as the distraction..?

    September 13, 2010 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  15. Aggie

    If the maximum speed limit is 70 MPH, why do car makers build cars with hundreds of Horse power and high performance?

    September 13, 2010 at 5:51 am | Report abuse |
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