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. Saty Chary

    More effective if projected (using a BRIGHT light source!) from a nearby light pole – that way the image can animate, or be swapped out regularly..


    September 9, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cieje Valentine

      Yeah, I think holograms would be ideal.. Probably too expensive to mass market/produce..

      September 10, 2010 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Gunther

    A driver going too fast swerves to avoid the illusion and kills a child walking on the sidewalk.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jim atmadison

    "Don't worry, it's just an optical illu..." Thump!

    September 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      I posted the same prior to seeing you had the same idea... precisely.

      September 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    Wow, terrible idea, and scary that people are quick to jump on this bandwagon. Not a good idea to desensitise people with tricks when it comes to kids in the street. Theres a million and one ways to slow down traffic ....

    September 9, 2010 at 8:53 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Josh

    This is a moronic idea. We shouldn't try to play tricks on a driver's vision; it's very dangerous. All this does is increase the number of distractions on the road.

    September 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm | Report abuse |
  6. David

    What happens when drivers are de-sensitized to thinking when they see a kid in the road in front of them its just an optical illusion... and don't slow down?

    September 9, 2010 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • mike hunt

      I was just about to say the same thing. i can see someone running in to this sticker a few times and then getting used to it then seeing a real kid, think its a sticker, and run the poor basterd over.

      September 9, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JOy

    Next time they will say "just an image" and race through. It might be a real child!

    September 9, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Oliver

    This will only desensitize drivers to children in the road and eventually cause more accidents.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Harry

    Drivers may not stop for real kids if they start thinking that those are also images.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. pemch

    Ever heard of "the boy who cried wolf"? What if, after a driver realizes it was an optical illusion, happens upon a REAL child? Would he think, "oh, that's just an illusion" and drive right through? Something to think about...

    September 9, 2010 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick

      Apparently I should have read the previous posts. I said the exact same thing.

      September 9, 2010 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Tammy

    Seems like a really bad idea. If people get used to seeing fake children in the road they will stop slowing and stopping for children, assuming they are just pictures. If every time a driver slows or stops the child is a picture then they will stop slowing and stopping. The next time when they don't slow or stop it could be a real child. It is not a good idea to get drivers used to driving over little children.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nick


      September 9, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. t

    i think everyone is over reacting and should just chill

    September 9, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Nick

    I like the purpose of the idea, but I can't help but think of the story of the boy who cried wolf. Put too many of these around and people might think an actual child in the street is an illusion and not slow down... =/

    September 9, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Elsie Harripersad

    This is not a good idea! Maybe if they used 3D of an object like a garbage bin or a box. That may be better than a child's image. Our brain would react differently to an inanimate object.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Coaster

    Dave Dobrin, it was a pink ball. If you are going to avoid something, know what you are avoiding! And if you look at the video, it's barely recognizable as a child as you approach, just a weird shape, then you see, oh, it's a child shaped thing, then it stretches out really long and then you're past it. I think the more effective ones were the ones that looked like speed bumps. They don't distract you into trying to figure out what the heck it is, they just make you hit the brakes. Simple shapes are better, in this respect.

    September 9, 2010 at 9:21 pm | Report abuse |
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