Zebra crossings — the alternating dark and light stripes on the road surface — are meant to alert drivers that pedestrians may be trying to get across. Unfortunately, they are not very effective. A 1998 study done by the Department of Traffic Planning and Engineering at Sweden’s Lund University, revealed that three out of four drivers maintained the same speed or even accelerated as they were approaching a crossing. Even worse? Only 5% stopped even when they saw someone trying to get across. Now a mother-daughter team in Ahmedabad, India have devised a clever way to get drivers to pay more attention — A zebra crossing with an optical illusion.
Artists Saumya Pandya Thakkar and Shakuntala Pandya were commissioned to paint the crosswalks by IL&FS, an Indian company that manages the highways in Ahmedabad. The corporation was looking for an innovative solution to help the city’s residents to cross the busy accident-prone roads safely. Thakkar and Pandya, who had previously seen images of 3-dimensional zebra crossings that gave drivers the illusion of logs of wood on the streets in Taizhou, China, decided to test if a similar tactic would work in India.
Sure enough, in the six months that the 3-D crosswalks have been painted across four of the city’s most dangerous highways, there have been no accidents reported! The artists say that while it may appear that the zebra-crossing could cause the drivers to brake suddenly and endanger the vehicles behind, such is not the case. Because of the way the human eye works, the illusion is only visible from a distance. As they get closer, the painting looks just like any other conventional zebra crossing. But since the driver is driving slower, he/she is more likely to stop. The creators hope that their smart design will become increasingly common throughout India and perhaps even the world.