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Opinion
Will 3D Zebra Crossings Help to Curb Traffic Accidents?
Three-dimensional (3D) zebra crossings have been installed to slow down drivers
 NO. 31 AUGUST 3, 2017

(LI SHIGONG)

Statistics from the Ministry of Public Security show that the past three years have seen 14,000 traffic accidents involving motor vehicles and pedestrians at zebra crossings around the country, leading to 3,898 deaths. Of the accidents, 90 percent were caused by vehicles breaching traffic rules and not giving way to pedestrians.

Drivers in Beijing may now find zebra stripes that seem to be protruding on two busy roads—one in Fengtai District and the other in Haidian District. This is not an illusion. Painted in yellow, white and blue, the three-dimensional (3D) zebra crossings have been installed to impose a strong visual impact on drivers so that they will slow down when approaching the crossings.

According to Beijing's traffic management bureau, the 3D stripes can be seen by drivers and pedestrians both night and day, and further testing is underway. Traffic police will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the impact before a decision is taken on whether to expand their use.

As for whether this practice will help to slow down vehicles before they approach zebra crossings, there are different opinions. Some say they do find drivers slowing down before 3D zebra stripes, but they doubt whether these stripes will continue to be effective after drivers get used to the 3D stripes, just as they have to the two-dimensional ones. After all, the key to curbing traffic accidents at zebra crossings is to raise drivers' safety awareness and their willingness to comply with traffic rules. Besides, 3D stripes will easily distract drivers' and pedestrians' attention, and this may increase the rate of accidents. Sometimes, pedestrians may hesitate to walk on these obstacles.

Others, however, believe more time should be given to this pilot program since there is no better way available for the time being to influence drivers' speed.

Worth the attempt

Wan Qian (www.nen.com.cn): 3D zebra crossings have interested the public as they are fresh and new for many people. Drivers will automatically step on the brakes, and this increases safety for pedestrians crossing roads. This is a great innovation. Why can't old zebra crossings be changed? As long as they are for the sake of public safety, such attempts are worthwhile.

Beijing's use of 3D zebra crossings at certain points has been applauded by the public. It's found that vehicles will automatically slow down when approaching the 3D stripes. The 3D stripes appear much more striking compared with the two-dimensional stripes.

We'll still have to wait and see whether the 3D zebra crossings are feasible. Nowadays, modern transport is developing at a rapid speed. If the old transportation system remains unchanged in an ever-changing environment, it will hinder social development. Beijing's traffic authorities should be applauded for their attempt to find new methods to manage transport and traffic.

Jia Mengyu (www.hebnews.cn): 3D zebra stripes actually force drivers to slow down through new technical means. This can be seen as a new remedy for the many old traffic problems at zebra crossings.

However, this new invention has also raised some doubts. It's said the 3D zebra stripes create a strong visual impact and cause confusion. As both pedestrians and drivers are distracted by the 3D stripes, this will to some extent increase the possibility of traffic accidents. These problems imply that the pros and cons of 3D zebra stripes need further assessment. The public also needs some time to adapt to the new version of zebra stripes.

While a proportion of vehicles still refuse to slow down at zebra crossings, we should not rush to say no to 3D zebra stripes, but more time should be given for their implementation. Meanwhile, given the controversial nature of 3D zebra stripes, the authorities should also work out a scientific evaluation of the efficiency of these stripes as soon as possible. Whether 3D zebra crossings should stay or go, only time will tell.

Side effects loom

Yang Peng (Huashang Daily): Using technical means to prevent drivers from competing with pedestrians at zebra crossings is crucial to make these road sections safe.

Actually, 3D zebra crossings have already appeared in many cities, but there are no statistics to prove the effectiveness of these crossings. Probably, more and more traffic management bureaus have begun to adopt them because the unique stereoscopic sensation of 3D zebra crossings can alert most drivers to slow down. However, in most cases, 3D zebra crossings make people hesitate over whether to proceed at the crossings. Indeed, these zebra stripes may slow down drivers, but they also distract drivers and pedestrians at the same time. Will this cause other traffic problems?

Zheng Wenzhi (focus.cnhubei.com): The strong visual impact from 3D zebra crossings does remind vehicles to slow down in front of the stripes and encourages pedestrians to use zebra crossings. However, more and more people complain that 3D zebra crossings distract their attention, and sometimes they even feel they are seeing an illusion. Therefore, 3D zebra crossings should not be built everywhere in a rush, given the increasing number of cars on the roads and the quicker and quicker pace of pedestrians.

As a traffic sign, zebra stripes at crossings mean to ensure pedestrians' safety, and thus there are clear regulations on how zebra crossings should be drawn. The Ministry of Transportation has strict standards on the width, length and intervals of the zebra crossings. Therefore, no reckless so-called "innovations" are allowed.

Besides, it's undeniable that 3D zebra crossings are likely to distract pedestrians and drivers. When a driver approaches a 3D zebra crossing and suddenly finds an object on the road immediately ahead, he or she tends to come to a screeching halt. Moreover, it is possible that drivers who are distracted by three-dimensional objects on the road surface may neglect nearby pedestrians.

Another problem is, at first, 3D zebra crossings may deter drivers and pedestrians, but gradually, people will get used to these stripes and the deterrence will disappear. By then, old regulation-breaching behaviors will come back.

The key to ensuring pedestrians' safety at zebra crossings is not to use 3D stripes or other kinds of innovation, but to strengthen both drivers' and pedestrians' sense of safety.

Installing traffic signs is a serious issue. It's not a game that can include commercial operation or things like this. As for the 3D zebra crossings, whether they are products of commercial or public welfare programs, they should be stopped immediately. To invent traffic signs like 3D stripes or other strange things which are tantamount to pitfalls on the road goes against the original intention behind having zebra crossings.

Qian Suwei (Beijing Morning Post): The public has already got used to two-dimensional zebra crossings, and people feel safe when walking on standard zebra stripes. Now, they may feel uneasy with the 3D zebra crossings. They'll see these stripes as obstacles and involuntarily raise their legs when walking on them. In these cases, instead of ensuring safety, these special stripes will slow down pedestrians and increase dangers.

Many drivers say, when encountering 3D zebra crossings, they feel there might be some obstacles on the road and thus slow down. However, others say 3D zebra crossings easily create an illusion in front of them, and their vehicle might hit other ones.

It's said that 3D zebra crossings will help to force drivers to slow down and will thus reduce traffic accidents at crossings caused by drivers' visual fatigue. I don't agree with this. If drivers feel their eyes are strained, they need to have a rest. 3D stripes can only stimulate visual perception, they cannot relieve eye strain. Will 3D stripes really slow down vehicles? China's Road Transportation Security Law explicitly states that motor vehicles should slow down when approaching zebra crossings and stop when there are pedestrians on the stripes. Thus, for drivers who lack safety awareness and despise traffic rules, even a tiger depicted on the road will not slow them down, let alone zebra stripes.

Copyedited by Chris Surtees

Comments to yanwei@163.com

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