Articles / Pedestrian safety

Do 3D crosswalks make street crossings safer?

By Aviva Canada on

Imagine approaching a crosswalk that appears to be floating above the ground.

What would you do? This is exactly what some drivers and pedestrians are experiencing in Waterloo, Ontario and Montreal, Quebec.

If you find yourself in the Boardwalk shopping plaza in Waterloo, or in the Outremont neighbourhood in Montreal, you may find yourself looking at what appears to be a floating crosswalk. These crosswalks are optical illusions painted on the street the same way as traditional crosswalks, however they employ a technique that involves using darker paint along with traditional white paint, which makes the crossings appear to pop off the ground from an oncoming driver’s perspective.

The purpose of these 3D crosswalks is to make them more visible to drivers, in hopes drivers will slow down and pay more attention.

Do 3D crosswalks work?

The use of pavement illusions to improve road, driver and pedestrian safety has been under study for some time now, but few definitive answers have been found.

A Western Michigan University study looked at these 3D illusions alongside standard road messages like “Pedestrian Crossing Ahead” or “Watch for Pedestrians”. The study found that messages painted on the road were effective in alerting drivers to be aware, and the addition of the 3D illusion made them even more likely to slow down as they approached, at least the first time.

However, a 2001 study in the Netherlands found that 3D crosswalks had no significant impact on drivers’ speeding habits.

Reviews in Montreal and Waterloo have been divided. Many say that the crosswalks do encourage them to slow down and pedestrians say they feel safer when using them. While others suggest their impact is minimal and doesn’t change driver behaviour.

While the merits of 3D crosswalks are still being debated, one thing is for sure: working to make our roads safer for all who use them is of the utmost importance. According to Transport Canada, in 2016, 17% of road traffic deaths in Canada involved pedestrians. When the problem is that significant, we must find and test innovative solutions like this one.

The merits of 3D crosswalks are being debated, but what is not up for debate is the importance of finding and testing solutions that make Canadian roads safer for all that use them.