Evidence Mounts of Distraction Risks from Digital Billboards Along Roadways

Digital billboards clearly catch the eye of passing motorists. But what is also increasingly clear is that such distractions can heighten safety risks in heavy traffic and other complex driving conditions, a long-time roadway researcher says.

That conclusion by Jerry Wachtel, a traffic safety consultant and one-time Federal Highway Administration staffer, came from his recent review of billboard distraction studies conducted everywhere from Denmark to South Dakota.

The latest research, Wachtel says, provides persuasive evidence that billboards – particularly digital billboards — take drivers’ eyes off the road for dangerously long gazes. That’s a problem especially when the bright electronic displays change messages, which typically happens every six to eight seconds.

As Wachtel put it, “The more that commercial digital signs succeed in attracting the attention of motorists that render them a worthwhile investment for owners and advertisers, the more they represent a threat to safety along our busiest streets and highways.”

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