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Roadside advertising - A driver distraction by design.

Scruby, H, Faulks, I, Regan, M, Stevenson, M, Brown, J, Porter, A, Irwin, J D

Driver Risk & Behaviour

ACRS conference 2005

We all know that just a moments’ distraction can end in disastrous consequences. Yet roadside advertising aims to achieve exactly that – to attract the gaze of the driver long enough to create the impression that sells the product. In an increasingly complex road scape, with some drivers already busy on the phone, companies like JCDecaux have gone one better with scrolling billboards. According to research published by JCDecaux last year,

“two-thirds of people look towards a site when it scrolls, drawn by the movement, and of those two-thirds, nearly 100 per cent go on to look at the following panel”.

Over those five seconds a car travelling at 40 km/h has travelled over 50 metres, without watching the road. The extra distraction of scrolling billboards has just compounded the existing problem of the placement of billboards obstructing sight distances between drivers and pedestrians. And these companies always try and place their advertisements in front of pedestrian crossings, obstructing the vision between motorists and pedestrians. They know it’s where motorists stop and they have the best chance of getting their messages across. So where is the Roads and Traffic Authority, the authority responsible for road safety, on this issue? In 1995, the Roads and Traffic Authority published “Road Environment Safety—A Practitioner's Reference Guide to Safer Roads” stating, ‘Landscaping and other street furniture must not obstruct visibility between vehicle drivers and pedestrians.’