3D illusion gets drivers' attention, slows them down

To remind drivers to slow down, a Canadian traffic safety organization has installed controversial 3D decals of a child playing in the road.

Liane Yvkoff
Liane Yvkoff is a freelance writer who blogs about cars for CNET Car Tech. E-mail Liane.
Liane Yvkoff
2 min read

You'd think that moms and dads would be the last people who needed reminders to drive with caution, but ironically, other children's parents are the biggest threat to kids in school zones, according to Preventable.ca.

After stopping in the midst of traffic to drop their own kids off, parents often speed away, make U-turns, back up without looking, or perform some other dangerous maneuver that poses a danger to other kids on the street, the Canadian traffic safety foundation reports.

To remind them to slow down and be aware of other children, at a West Vancouver intersection, Preventable installed 2D decals that, as a driver approaches, gradually become a 3D-like image of a girl playing with a ball in the middle of the road. The illusion is a speed bump of sorts that grabs drivers' attention and causes them to slow down, and it was installed to coincide with the start of the school year. The back-to-school months of September and October are the highest period of pedestrian-related accidents in Canada, according to the safety organization.

The stunt has gained international media attention, and is being decried by some traffic safety experts as a possible road hazard. While it may seem like a bad idea to bait drivers with dangerous situations to make a point, Preventable says that it performed a risk assessment of the tactic and found it to be safe and effective.

"A risk assessment of this project shows that drivers do not mistake this image for a real girl and can see the image 100 feet away. The image does not 'jump-out' at drivers and there is no 'startling effect'; the road conditions on 22nd Street are very good for this project, which is precisely why this location was selected," according to a news release issued by Preventable.

The following is a video that demonstrates what drivers see as they approach the 2D decals that become the 3D illusion:

This isn't the first unorthodox traffic calming measure to hit the roads. Residents in parts of the U.S. have tried using cardboard cutouts of children and quirky signs to slow traffic in residential areas. But this is the first well-publicized "creative" attempt condoned by a local government. Whether or not the experiment is successful at slowing drivers, it has people aware of and talking about pedestrian safety, which is part of the project's goal.