Billboards are everywhere and can be quite a distraction. Whether you are driving, riding with someone else, or just walking, billboards catch your attention and can occasionally be thought provoking. When a driver gets an emotional charge out of the billboards that they are passing, this can become a problem. Studies have been done to find out how much of an effect an emotional or thought-provoking billboard can have on drivers.
The number one cause of accidents in the United States is distractions. Unfortunately, distractions for drivers continue to increase. Distractions can come from any number of things, including kids and other passengers, a text or a phone call, or the radio. All these come from within the vehicle, but what about the distractions that are outside the car that could distract the driver – such as the massive amounts of billboards that litter the sides of the road.
Studies have not been entirely conclusive in linking traffic accidents with the eye-catching billboard advertisements, however, many groups have stated that these boards are an unwarranted danger.
Researchers have studied the effects of various messages on roadside billboards. They compared them to the emotional status of the driver and how those advertisements affected the motorist’s driving ability through the use of a controlled driving simulator. The conclusion of these studies shows that billboards that had negative messages made motorist’s drive slower, whereas ones that had positive messages caused them to speed up. The researchers state that a driver’s emotions will affect their attention and decision-making abilities. Negative messages, being more emotionally charged, tend to consume more focus. On the other side of the coin, ones with positive messages tend to expand the driver’s focus and invigorate them, which could be a factor in the speed increase.
Another thing to keep in mind is that it is not just the words on the billboards, but also the positive or the negative images. These can also add to the distraction of the driver. The irony comes in when the billboards that depict car wrecks and warnings of dangerous driving practices, like drinking or texting while driving, can actually distract a driver to the point of getting into an accident. Digital images and video billboards just increase the driver’s distractions even more that standard ones. The moving images and words can take the driver’s eyes off the road for three to five seconds. Any distraction that is over two seconds has the potential to be the cause of a collision.
Knowing is half the battle. Now that you know that billboards are a big distraction for many motorists, you can take positive steps to keep your mind and your eyes focused on the road. As a driver, it is your job to take responsibility for your actions behind the wheel. You can do your best to avoid looking at the billboard advertisements, one thing that may help is you can lower your visor and block some of the higher elevated ads. Distractions of any kind add to the risk when you are driving. However, the research shows that the risk of an accident due to distractions increases when the emotions are stimulated.