Illusions slow drivers in South Florida

| September 13, 2013

Drivers in South Florida may start slowing down thanks to an optical illusion on the roadways.

South Florida traffic officials are planning to test a new technique in coming months that would involve hash marks on the roadways, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports.

The 1-foot-wide, 18-inch-long lines, created from thermoplastic tape, would be placed on both sides of travel lanes, perpendicular and spaced at gradually closer intervals, giving drivers the illusion they are going faster than they are.

Traffic engineers expect the illusion to cause drivers to slow down.

Researchers at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) have noted while the line spacing makes drivers feel the need to slow down, the line pattern also grabs their attention.

The technique will be implemented later this year or early next year on a curving stretch of Andrews Avenue in Fort Lauderdale. If the illusion is successful in slowing drivers, officials may also use it in Broward and Palm Beach counties.

In the coming months, South Florida will begin testing a new technique to slow drivers. The technique, which involves spacing white lines at gradually closer intervals, has been tested other states such as Virginia (pictured) and Kansas. (Photo: Virginia Transportation Research Council, via the Sun-Sentinal)

In the coming months, South Florida will begin testing a new technique to slow drivers. The technique, which involves spacing white lines at gradually closer intervals, has been tested other states such as Virginia (pictured) and Kansas. (Photo: Virginia Transportation Research Council, via the Sun-Sentinal)

A similar technique was tested in West Palm Beach in the 1990s, but it has since worn out or been paved over.

The illusion has been in use in other states since 2004. Studies in Kansas and Virginia have shown the technique can cut average speeds by up to 5 mph.

Previous tests in Florida at the junction of Interstates 4 and 95 near Daytona Beach, however, did not produce the same results. Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) spokesman Steve Olson told the Sun-Sentinel the tests showed “not much of a difference.”

Despite the test results, Fort Lauderdale officials still plan to try the illusion on Andrews because residents in the area requested the city implement the technique.

The project is still in its design phase. Officials have not yet determined how long testing will occur.

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