A front-page story in Friday’s USA Today is giving billboard haters fresh ammunition.
According to the article, the Scenic America organization is citing a new Swedish study as showing that digital billboards are more distracting than previously thought, holding drivers’ gazes far longer than deemed safe – more than two seconds.
A 2006 Virginia Tech study for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Scenic America says, “found that anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds greatly increases the risk of a crash. The study also found that nearly 80 percent of all crashes involved driver inattention just prior to (within three seconds of) the crash.”
The Swedish study, published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, was conducted by researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute and funded by the Swedish Transport Administration. As a result of this and other research, Sweden has ordered removal of all digital billboards, says Scenic America.
Not unexpectedly, the billboard industry disputes the study’s findings, saying they don’t translate to the situation in the United States. I’m not sure what that means. Are Americans less likely than Swedes to be intrigued by bright, colorful billboards along the road? Any enlightenment on the difference would be welcome.
Download the Swedish study’s abstract here: http://www.scenic.org/storage/PDFs/eebdd.pdf