Speed reduction bars save lives

Optical illusions outsmart drivers on roadways

Science Fair ’66 was not your typical middle school science fair and drivers everywhere ought to be thankful. Two British science teachers, a handful of 14-year olds, and some strategically placed yellow paint managed to bring roadways closer to the speed at which cars are had begun traveling them. The trick was trickery, itself. The project’s theme, Frames of Reference, relied heavily on the work of American physicists and cognitive psychologists. This work asserted that the perspective from which something is viewed heavily influences one’s perception of that environment. By adding a series of bright yellow parallel lines leading up to a busy intersection, scientists fooled drivers into thinking they were traveling faster than in actuality. This is because drivers naturally assume that since the landscape is flying by more quickly than they’re accustomed, the car must be traveling faster than it should. The result: drivers slow down.

With this knowledge in mind, I noticed another instance of this on my own route home. A short-cut side street many cars frequently travel was recently transformed by placement of median strips and extended curbs with flowers, shrubs, and small trees planted inside. I assumed this was in connection with the street’s attempt at revitalization, but learned that this was, in fact, to reduce speeds, making my driving experience more cautious and safer than before. The city is not mindlessly wasting money, it is attempting to improve the quality of its roadways.

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