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Look Out for that Bump! Screech!


Traffic-safety experts are getting creative when it comes to foiling speeding drivers who zoom dangerously through city neighborhoods. Most towns don't have enough police officers to actually catch many speeders, so they try to slow everyone down through what's called traffic calming.

Some communities put up additional traffic lights or signs to force drivers to slow and stop more often. But this can lead to long, infuriating backups of cars.

Traffic circles or zig-zag obstacle courses are other calming devices. They break up straight stretches of road, which are an open invitation to speeding. The traffic islands have the desired effect, but drivers tend to crash into their raised curbs and flower beds.

Many towns have tried speed bumps, or raised ridges in the road. If you ignore them, they produce a teeth-rattling bounce that can ruin shock absorbers and axles. The humps slow down, give a good jolt to, and irritate safe drivers, too, including those in emergency vehicles.

The latest, somewhat sneaky, speed-reducing innovation is . . . an optical illusion! The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is testing fake speed bumps! These are flat sheets of thermoplastic, laid across a street and embedded with designs that, from a distance, look like three-dimensional pyramids, sticking up from the pavement. Who wouldn't slow down for that? And they cost a fraction of real humps in the road.

But there's one problem with these bumpy illusions: As the police traffic coordinator in Phoenix, Ariz., told the Associated Press, They were great . . . until people found out what they were!

Once they do, determined speeders pay them no more mind than they would a pretty landscape scene, painted on the street.

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