Distracted Driving & Digital Billboards

Most weeks don’t pass without some article, news item or blog post on distracted driving.  Most of these articles tend to focus on texting and driving.  I’ve even written a couple of posts on texting and driving too.  But let’s face it, there’s more to driving distracted than just texting.  We can be distracted by a number of things including:

  • Thinking about an upcoming meeting or an argument with a loved one
  • Kids bugging each other in the back seat, “Mom…!”
  • Stop and go traffic
  • An interesting story on NPR or a talk show
  • An audio book
  • A phone conversation

But have you ever connected driving distracted with billboards?  How about digital billboards?

I’d never put the two together until a few weeks ago.  I was reviewing a file of clipped and printed articles from The Dallas Morning News and other sources and came across an article that mentioned it.

The article was on the city of Lewisville, Texas and the ongoing negotiations they are having with an outdoor sign company.  Lewisville wants to widen I-35 to help ease congestion.  They also want to reduce the number of billboards along I-35 to reduce visual clutter.  The negotiations are about replacing some of the standard billboards with new digital billboards.

What Lewisville is considering is what many communities across America are also facing.  All billboards are designed to capture our attention and provide us with a brief advertising message.  Those that are creative and inventive succeed and those that aren’t don’t.

Digital billboards are different.  Two pioneering studies were conducted evaluating the impact on digital billboards.

  • The first referenced study was conducted by Virginia Tech for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2006.
  • The second study was conducted by Swedish researchers at the National Road and Transport Research Institute in 2009.

The results of these studies are:

  • Drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than they did at other signs on the same stretch of road.
  • Drivers would often take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds.
  • Anything that takes the driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds greatly increases the risk of a crash.
  • Nearly 80% of all crashes involved driver inattention just prior to the crash (within 3 seconds).

Most outdoor sign companies have offered up their own studies contending that most people look at signs less than two seconds.  Who’s right?  While the jury’s still out:

  • Sweden elected to have all digital billboards removed from their highways in 2009.
  • The Federal Highway Administration review of the existing studies determined the results were inconclusive and launched their own study.
  • The FHA study began in 2007 and no results have been released as of yet.

What do you think?  Post your comments and thoughts in the comments section of our blog or on our Google + and Facebook pages.  We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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