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Illusions Can Promote Safer Driving

Optical illusions are a cheap and effective way to keep drivers from speeding

Drivers around the world know the feeling. When a police car merges onto a highway, it is often greeted by a parade of red lights, as the other drivers slow down. Similarly, the presence of speed detectors serves to keep drivers from speeding down roads as much as it serves to punish those who actually break the speed limit.

Indeed, the presence of a policeman or of a speed trap need not even be real, virtual decoys of various nature have proven sufficient to keep drivers on their toes.

Ghost Cars

While they may be far from the advances made with augmented realitypainted illusionscut-outs and other decoys are effectively being used around the world to reduce speeding and curb other traffic infractions by unruly drivers.

Cut-outs of traffic wardens and police cars, often referred to as ghost cars, have been used from Cuba to Saudi Arabia to ensure that drivers are well-behaved, while real patrolmen can use the extra time to analyse the benefits of the programme and study the day-to-day placement of the – real or virtual – speed traps.

Last year, the City of Ahmedabad in India began experimenting with striped crosswalks that look like roadblocks to approaching drivers: yet another tricky, but effective, approach to promote safer driving.

Virtual Reality

Most recently, the City of London has stepped up this idea by implementing a pilot programme that aims to slow down drivers with imaginary 3D speed bumps. Painted models are used to create virtual speed bumps on the road which appear – from the oncoming driver’s perspective – just like the real thing.

The programme, which is based on speed bumps that are actually painted optical illusions, is part of an eighteen-month pilot programme that was launched in September 2016.

Reducing Average Speed

Using statistical analysis to show how effective the programme has been in reducing average traffic speeds, the team responsible for project implementation reported that the evidence that has been gathered is so compelling that the 3D bump design has gradually been extended to 45 locations in the City of London and, in the summer of last year, the “virtual speed bumps” were also installed at Southwark Street in downtown London.

The results of the London trial reveal that, on average, speeds were reduced by three mph (five Km/h), nine months after installation, which suggests that the virtual speed bumps are effectively slowing drivers down.

Moreover, the programme is quickly garnering interest due to the fact that the production of virtual speed bumps is economically much more advantageous than installing real ones!

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