Are Billboards Dangerously Distracting?
Everyone’s concerned about distracted driving these days–and for good reason. Many accidents happen every day, due to drivers who take their eyes off the road to check their phone or look at passengers in the back seat. It’s such a problem that many automakers now offer vehicle tools that alert drivers when they’re drifting from their lane or getting too close to the car ahead.
With as much effort is being put into reducing distractions behind the wheel, it’s a surprise that nothing is being done about the numerous potential distractions outside the car: roadside billboards. Are these giant, eye-catching advertisements a hazard to driver focus, or are they innocuous decorations on the roadside landscape?
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Do Billboards Lead to Increased Crashes on the Road?
Back in 2006, a Virginia Tech study determined that anything which draws driver attention from the road for more than two seconds greatly increases collision likelihood. Over 3/4 of all crashes surveyed involved driver inattentiveness mere seconds before the accident. Billboard advertisements, by their very nature, are intended to grab the attention of drivers and hold their focus long enough to communicate a message.
Digital billboards are even worse, as studies have proven. The Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute found that drivers stare longer at digital billboards longer than any other distraction on the road. The Swedish government, concluding that digital signs are brighter and more entrancing, outlawed all digital billboards some years ago. Despite this obvious correlation, more and more billboards are being erected in the United States.
Billboards don’t just draw our attention away from the road; they affect our driving tendencies, too. According to a study by the University of Alberta, the words on billboards can trigger emotional responses in drivers that affect their performance. Signs with positive messages compel drivers to speed up while negative messages cause drivers to slow down and veer from their lane more.
Considering the results of these surveys, we should definitely consider limiting distracting advertisements on roads for our own safety.
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