If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Stupidest Thing I have Ever Seen

Seen here:

Preventable, BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation, and the District of West Vancouver have launched a 3D illusion geared to make drivers slow down at high-risk intersections.

If you’ve read the Vancouver Sun, Province, or National Post articles or heard interviews on Vancouver radio and TV programs about the illusion, you’d know that drivers near 22nd street in West Vancouver will be confronted with what seems like a young girl running after a ball in front of their vehicle. In reality, it’s a decal on the pavement that looks like a real person. Signage near the 3D image reads “You’re probably not expecting kids to run out on the road.”

Let's get this right. You are concerned about the number of children killed on the roads. So you put an anamorphic decal on the road that looks like a child running out after a ball. This will slow drivers down and make them think twice about their responsibilities, right?


I can think of three catastrophic side-effects of this apparently radical idea:

1. Driver sees the decal, slams on the brakes, swerves and mounts the pavement, taking out a bus queue. Three children die, because the driver was trying to avoid an inanimate image. We know that people brake unexpectedly for speed cameras and have caused accidents, so this is not an unforeseeable consequence.

2. Driver kills a child and in court argues "but I thought it was a decal". It's Canada; he's in with a chance.

3. The worst, and the most predictable: drivers will become desensitised. The first time you pass the decal, you will slow down and think, as the designers wanted you to. But if that decal is on a regular route, you will pass it tomorrow. You will slow down, and perhaps say to your passenger "hey, look at that cool decal!" The next day, you won't even slow down. In effect, you have been taught to ignore the image of a child in the road. And it won't help if they change the image and move the location. You will then learn to ignore children in the road wherever you see them. What's that? Ah, it'll be a decal. Squish.

How ever this idea got beyond the coffee-time brainstorm I do not know. Did no-one from 'Preventable' think it through? Do they employ no-one with an atom of common sense?

To add an extra layer of stupid on top of the championship, exhibition stupidity already demonstrated, they have placed the decal on the far side of a pedestrian crossing - distracting drivers with an inanimate image at the precise moment that they should be concentrating on looking for stray (real) pedestrians.

Apparently, it's not a spoof. If you read the comments on the original article, however, the good citizens of Vancouver have not been slow to make their feelings heard.

Other blogs have covered this well, (Dick Puddlecote wins the prize for Best Title with "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?", also Longrider and Civil Libertarian) but I couldn't let this one go by unremarked.

H/t to Anna Raccoon for the link.


  1. Fantastic idea, won't hear anything against it!

    What I particularly like is that, far from being simple desensitisation, it actively goes against every biological and natural imperative to protect the young. To use that piece of road you must be willing, perhaps even eager, to watch something your brain is screaming is real disappear under the front wheels of your two-ton murder wagon without so much as flinching. A great way to earn your first nervous breakdown, or - for the truly heartless - a genuine, psychotic thousand-yard stare.

    If only they'd thought to put it on a speed hump, for the full tactile experience. Then it'd be perfect.

  2. Ouch.

    I've often wondered how the human brain, with all its sillinesses, vanity, wrong-thinking and daydreaming, nevertheless permits ordinary folk to perform an extraordinarily complex task such as driving a car (never mind riding a bike) with a high degree of competence. For the number of people doing it, and the amount they do it, accidents are in fact incredibly infrequent. I'm sure it is the fact that driving/riding employs a lot of the autonomic nervous system, the lizard brain, the thing that has been keeping us alive and out of the reach of predators for 200,000 years. Speed and distance judgement, hazard avoidance, the ability to multi-task, emergency reactions measured in milliseconds, all suggest that the bits that keep us safe on the road are the bits that have kept us safe for millennia, only adapted to a new environment. And, as you correctly point out, one of those is the instinctive avoidance of hitting something, especially a young member of the species.

    And this measure would actively work to disable that very reaction. Stunningly stupid.

  3. Number 3. is spot on and something no one seems to have learnt from. It's why (in the UK) putting up "speed camera" signs all over the place, or even dummy cameras, loses it's affect over time.

  4. Indeed - although the sanctions attached to speed cameras mean that they have a certain crude dissuasive effect, even when we are familiar with them. With these decals, once you know the trick, they can be safely ignored, which can't be said for Mr Gatsonides' invention.


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