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. observer

    This may prove dangerous in the long run. What will happen if certain drivers get used to the image and just ignore it. What if it's an actual child crossing the street and they still think it's just a 3D image? About the suggestion on the traffic light turning red once it detects excessive speed, the offending driver might slow down and stop. But what about the oncoming traffic behind this driver? They may not react the same way and will result in deadly chain reaction: rear-ending.

    September 10, 2010 at 2:00 am | Report abuse |
  2. DP

    It may make things worse... What if driver will think... oops that is just another fake child on the street, but that time your daughter will be playing there.... oops

    September 10, 2010 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  3. Matt

    Nothing says "Good idea" like having every car on the road get used to driving over the image of a child playing with a ball in the street! Certainly no one will ever see an actual child and assume them to be just another painting! WOULD NEVER HAPPEN!!!

    September 10, 2010 at 2:07 am | Report abuse |
  4. Floor it!

    Cool. Now the next time I see a kid in the road I'm going to floor it, I can't kill an illusion. And if I'm wrong, that is survival of the fittest and 30 points. I wish kid were worth more. 🙁

    September 10, 2010 at 2:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. Really?!?!

    Only 30 points? That is really good.

    September 10, 2010 at 2:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Graham

    OK so when a real child is in the road will people think it is a 3D illusion and just barrel on through. I would hate to see the law suits when that happens.

    September 10, 2010 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
  7. Mom

    Well, for all of you who are saying 'crying wolf' you should be more responsible and note that it COULD be a child in a school zone and just SLOW DOWN. going 30km/hr for a couple seconds is not going to get you where you want to significantly faster – so just be a responsible driver for goodness sakes!

    September 10, 2010 at 2:44 am | Report abuse |
  8. Phage0070

    The problem is that this can either A: Cause a "the boy who cried 'wolf'" reactions where people don't immediately slam on their brakes when encountering children in the road, or B: People slam on their brakes when encountering the illusion for the first time causing accidents. The locals of course will be used to ignoring some kid in the road, which perhaps isn't what they were going for.

    September 10, 2010 at 2:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Fred

    This is AWESOME! I'm going to start painting 3D oncoming cars on the freeway by my house.

    September 10, 2010 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
  10. Cameron

    "We become anesthetized to the risks related to driving" so this means when we see one of these decals (read as children) in the road we just run over it without thinking. When do the parents become responsible for keeping their kids out of the street?

    September 10, 2010 at 3:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. Tia

    Why not do a 3D illusion of a speed bump? Then when people mistake the real thing for an optical illusion, the only damage done is to their own cars. I'd rather see that then to think that a child will end up dead or someone will swerve and cause a greater accident as a result of this.

    And for those saying that if there is an accident it's because the driver was speeding...well duh! They would be speeding regardless of this stupid campaign, why increase the risk of their being a serious accident? Does Cana*duh* not have cops? If this is such a problem, put an officer there and make some revenue off of speeding tickets.

    September 10, 2010 at 4:21 am | Report abuse |
  12. Nick L

    @jimmy, That's a really great idea! I'm surprised it hasn't been done yet (that I know of). As for this trick with the image of the child, I'd like to know more about the detailed risk assessment they supposedly did. How can you really do an accurate assessment of such a thing? Actually, if today was April 1st, I would have figured this to be a joke article.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:23 am | Report abuse |
  13. Hi!

    All of you guys are idiots if you actually think a human being is going to be desensitized into thinking a live, moving child is just an illusion. I think that should be our real area of concern haha.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:28 am | Report abuse |
  14. What?

    Drunks, smokers who dropped their cigarette, cell phone texting, and cell phone calls causing distraction up til the moment the driver finally "sees" the kid and then all hell breaks loose. Just what we need – one more lame excuse for inattentive drivers to use in court.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:32 am | Report abuse |
  15. Kynt

    Speed bumps are so much more effective and much less dangerous in terms of people getting used to it and speeding anyway. I don't get what's the point of this except publicity. A widespread use of these images isn't wise for exactly the reason that drivers will be desensitized, and if it's not a measure that can be implemented long-term and wide-spread then it's not worth a trial run like this. Get bumps, be done.

    September 10, 2010 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
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