A new traffic control device: painting a picture of a child on the road

The battle to control speeders has a new weapon:

On Tuesday, the town [West Vancouver, Canada] unveiled a new way to persuade motorists to ease off the gas pedal in the vicinity of the École Pauline Johnson Elementary School: a 2-D image of a child playing, creating the illusion that the approaching driver will soon blast into a child.

According to Discover magazine, the pavement painting appears to rise up as the driver gets closer to it, reaching full 3-D realism at around 100 feet: “Its designers created the image to give drivers who travel at the street’s recommended 18 miles per hour (30 km per hour) enough time to stop before hitting Pavement Patty — acknowledging the spectacle before they continue to safely roll over her.”

I would be very curious to know how effective this is. While the article suggests that drivers may then be more prone to hit real children, drivers might also just eventually tune out the painting, much as they do with traffic signs.

Another school of thought would suggest measures like this painting are missing the point. What really should change are the structure and design of streets. If you want people to drive more safely, make roads narrower and include parked cars on both sides. Or, one could go as far as European traffic engineer Hans Monderman who advocated removing all traffic signs – since drivers ignore them much of the time anyway, having no signs might force them to pay more attention.

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