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Lawyer Blog: Baltimore, MD

Preventing Pedestrian Deaths with Optical Illusions

Optical Illusion

Pedestrian deaths have not decreased in recent years, despite expectations that they might because of a general down-trend in traffic fatalities. From 2003 through 2012, 47,025 persons on foot died across our nation. These deaths represented 12.3 percent of all traffic fatalities over the decade. But in 2012 alone, 15 percent of all traffic fatalities were pedestrians. Actual walking traffic deaths in 2010 were 4,280; but by 2011, the number had increased to 4,432. It increased again in 2012 — to 4,743.

In a more recent report spanning 2005 through 2014, Maryland ranked 15th among all states for pedestrian danger, with total pedestrian deaths of 1,053 resulting in a Pedestrian Danger Index (PDI) of 77.8. Florida was No. 1 in pedestrian danger, with a PDI of 177 and 5,142 fatalities. (Higher PDI numbers mean greater danger.)

Focusing locally, the Baltimore-Columbia-Towson metro area ranked 55th in pedestrian danger out of 104 metro areas, with 470 deaths and a PDI of 65.7. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, FL, was first, with a PDI of 283.1 and 165 deaths.

For all of these statistics, the age group most at risk was 65 and over.

Technology to the Rescue

Advances in technology have brought some possible solutions that have been tried around the world with success. The use of 3-D optical illusions—drivers seeing obstacles in the road that aren’t really there—has been effective in forcing speeders to slow down. The illusions range from lines that resemble raised blocks in the road to the image of a child running after a ball. As these optical illusions become familiar to drivers, their effectiveness sometimes lessens, but they do work. Locations that have experimented with tech-based optical illusions are:

  • Iceland, where the town Isafjordur painted a 3-D illusion onto a crosswalk to make it appear as if giant blocks that would damage a car were in the roadway. Although statistics were not recorded, it is believed that the illusions made drivers slow down.
  • New Delhi, India, installed 3-D crosswalks in 2016 that effectively reduced automotive speeds by 15 percent. The city now has 20 of these 3-D crosswalks that make it appear as if blocks are in the road.
  • In 2010, West Vancouver, Canada, used the 3-D optical illusion of a girl chasing a ball, which became known as “Pavement Patty.” It was used for a brief period of time, and statistics on driver behavior were not kept.
  • London, England, began testing the illusions in late 2014; known as 3-D “road cushions,” they resemble speed bumps. The average speed of drivers dropped by 3 mph; 45 road cushions are now installed.
  • Chicago, Illinois, used 3-D markings shaped like lightning bolts at one set of crosswalks for a 2012 study, with much the same success as elsewhere. In the U.S., using 3-D markings violates the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHA) existing standards, though the agency does have the authority to grant approval of these new optical illusions.

An unexpected down-side of the illusions at many locations: Pedestrians started using the crosswalks to take selfies.

The Old Ways Still Work

We still have certain tried-and-true low-tech measures known to reduce pedestrian fatalities — among them traffic roundabouts, pedestrian beacons, pedestrian islands, and rumble strips. The FHA has identified 20 effective low-tech solutions in use since 2008.

All of these methods, however, require states, cities, and towns to do their part by installing them in their roadways. Low-tech and high-tech solutions could well be used together to effectively combat the problem of pedestrian fatalities.

We’re listening. How can we help you?

At the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler, we have devoted our practice to defending the rights of personal injury victims. We know how traumatic a serious car accident can be for both the injured person and for his or her family. If you or a loved one was seriously injured as a pedestrian or in a vehicular accident, you may be entitled to various kinds of financial compensation, such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. Keep in mind, however, that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident, you should not delay. Contact Steve, your Baltimore car accident lawyer, for a free initial consultation at 1-855-396-2637 or through our online form.