Would Optical Illusions Make Pedestrians Safer?

Every year, thousands of pedestrians throughout the country are killed in accidents with cars and other motor vehicles. In 2017, nearly 6,000 people died in crashes with vehicles, according to a report from the Governors Highway Safety Association. And in spite of an increasing focus on pedestrian safety, the number of pedestrian deaths nationally has increased markedly in recent years, jumping by 9% between 2015 and 2016, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Grim statistics involving pedestrian fatalities are not limited to the United States. No matter what country they live in, pedestrians are at risk of injury or death. When a two-ton car and a person meet in the street, the person is almost always on the losing side, which is why it is so important, no matter how large the city or how small the town, to have strong traffic safety plans in place and to always look at new and evolving approaches to pedestrian safety.

As part of its traffic safety plans, a small village in Iceland has incorporated a novel approach that uses optical illusion to try to reduce risk to pedestrians. The village, which has extremely narrow streets, wanted to slow drivers down, so it used 3-D paint to create a crosswalk. At street level as drivers approach, it appears that the stripes in the crosswalk are raised off the ground. Drivers are fooled into slowing or stopping to avoid hitting the perceived barriers in the road. The village was inspired to try the 3-D approach by a similar crosswalk project in New Delhi, India, which was done as a trial. Other countries, including China and South Africa, are also adding 3-D crosswalks.

Have these crosswalk illusions helped curb pedestrian deaths and injuries in India and Iceland? Because they are relatively new in those places, the data isn’t available yet. But it may be an interesting approach to consider in other cities and towns, however, even when other safety plans are showing positive results.

In New York City, pedestrian deaths have decreased dramatically in recent years, thanks to the city’s strong safety program. The program, called Vision Zero, which was originally developed in Sweden, includes lower speed limits, more traffic enforcement and increased driver outreach and education, among other things. Since the program was implemented in 2013, pedestrian fatalities have dropped by 45 percent, according to city statistics. Overall traffic fatalities have also decreased.

While New York is moving in the right direction compared to national trends, even one pedestrian death is always one too many. Would optical illusions help to reduce pedestrian fatalities in New York City, New York state and throughout the rest of the country if they were implemented? We don’t know for sure, but it may be a worthwhile method to consider.

If you have a question about a pedestrian accident or other accident involving a motor vehicle, or need the services of an accident attorney, the professionals at Kaplan Law are available for you to contact 24/7.