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. Project Mayhem

    I'm eager to see the way a pack of industrious high school students eventually vandalize this illusion.

    September 13, 2010 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
  2. echosassa

    Following this logic to it's illogical extremes, why not glow-in the dark "deer in the headlights" 3D decals for deer crossing zones, large 3D "massive boulder" decals for falling rock zones, 3D "workmen in the road" decals for construction zones, and 3D "car in the wrong direction" decals for no passing zones to prevent head-on collisions? Maybe some 3D illusions of pretty women on the side of the road could help as well?

    September 13, 2010 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. dnha14

    How about the driver that sees the illusion and slams on his or her brakes and causes a chain reaction rear-ender?

    September 13, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  4. Gigi

    Ok, how about this scenario, a space ship is about to land to abduct our children, it notices the image, panics because it doesn't want to damage one of it's test subjects,swerves into the school, well I am sure you can imagine the rest...wait what if the driver of the space ship is an 850 year old driver, man I can't even imagine what the outcome will about your lawsuit!

    September 13, 2010 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jimbo From Irmo


    What, pray tell, is so gosh-darned HARD about TEACHING these idiot children to NOT PLAY IN or NEAR THE STREETS?? Okay, we get that their parents must surely be too stupid to pay attention to their surroundings, but is that defect genetic??

    Perhaps a clever decal is all these children deserve, not a dedicated (safe) playground.

    Or if you can't teach your children (meaning you require that I be robbed to cover a stranger's indoctrination of your child), at least let them learn on their own to WATCH FOR THE 2-TON DEATH MACHINES when they play where the death machines belong?

    You people (NOT the elderly or truck drivers or the rest of us) who think 'your' offspring somehow 'deserve' having an extra cost imposed upon all the rest of US are a major cause of this problem.


    Consider this: Punish the PARENTS of the children who run into the street. There's already a legal precedent: NEGLECT = ABUSE.

    Then you can keep the silly pictures on the sidewalk where they belong.

    Some of you try to claim Canada appreciates "Personal Responsibility"?? Why can't you accept PARENTAL RESPONSIBILITY?

    (Now CNN will cull this post, but I hope at least one or two of you get to see it. Nothing like a differing viewpoint to promote "lively and courteous discussion", eh?)

    September 13, 2010 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  6. asdf

    appears in 3D for another 40 feet until the driver "it" about 10 feet away

    -10 points.

    September 13, 2010 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  7. Ruth

    Wow. This is a horrible idea. Once people figure out that they are illusions, they will really haul ass. Even when a real child is there, they will think its an illusion.

    September 13, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  8. Eric

    I am not sure about this myself. I like the one person's response regarding putting a fake police officer to get people to slow down. I live in the Pittsburgh area, specifically, south suburbs of Pittsburgh, and in one Pittsburgh suburb, Mt. Lebanon, to be exact, back in the early 1990's, Mt. Lebanon had a "dummy" they dressed up as a police officer and sat him behind the wheel of a patrol car and parked it in a very prominent place and it did get people to slow down, but after a while, people got word of the dummy and it became a standing joke when you saw a Mt. Lebanon police car, the question which arose was "is it the real dummy or the fake dummy"? He was even stolen a few times by some local teenagers as a prank as well, so whomever wrote the idea of the fake police officer, yes it will work for a short time, but people will catch on to it and realize he or she is not real.

    September 13, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Info

    It is critical for humans to be able to recognize real people when driving. This will lead to poorer driving, mistrust of signs, and deaths. Don't do it!

    September 13, 2010 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jt

    Well-intentioned, but the morons behind this idea are going to cause unnecessary accidents.

    September 13, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  11. STBro

    Using anamorphic human images might seem like a good idea. In the US, Federal standards discourage the use of "Children at Play" signs. Studies made in cities where such signs were widely posted in residential areas show no evidence of having reduced pedestrian accidents, vehicle speed, or legal liability.
    What these signs accomplish is to give parents and school supervisory personnel a false sense of security; the kids are more likely to run out into the street.

    Anamorphic images rely on cognitive recognition of expected aspect ratios to generate an illusion. This effect relies on the viewer being within a specific distance from the illusion. What this means is that the person slamming on the brakes thinks a little girl darted into the road. The big truck behind them, with the driver at a different elevation and distance, won't see the little girl illusion. What they will see is someone slamming on their brakes for no reason at all.

    September 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
  12. DEO

    I drove down this street from the opposite direction and I was thinking, why is there a little girl standing on her head in the middle of the street. So I ran her over.

    September 13, 2010 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DEO

    This is teaching children that it's ok to play in the street because cars will just drive right through you and nothing happens.

    September 13, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  14. DEO

    I got a ticket speeding down this street, so I paid the ticket with 3d illusion money.

    September 13, 2010 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Guest

    I would be afraid that after using this optical illusion for a while drivers may start to ignore children in the road and start hitting real children thinking that they were an optical illusion.

    September 13, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
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