A simple sign may make you a better driver. Picture: Outdoor Media Association
A simple sign may make you a better driver. Picture: Outdoor Media Association

This sign could make you a better driver

THE fleeting seconds where you glance at a billboard while driving down a road can have a significant impact on the way you drive, even if you don't notice the change.

A new study commissioned by the Outdoor Media Association has revealed that roadside advertising can play a big role in improving motorists' driving skills.

Research shows 88 per cent of driver distraction occurs inside the car, whether it is looking at a mobile phone, eating or passing an item to a passenger. As often as every minute and a half, drivers perform a "secondary task" that takes their attention away from the road.

The aim of the study was to see how a factor outside of the vehicle, such as a billboard, would impact driver behaviour.

 

Digital billboards were used at two different complex intersections in Queensland, one on the Gold Coast and one in Gladstone. Data was captured over four weeks, before and after the billboards were installed, looking at specific times of day including morning and afternoon peak-hour and night-time.

Researchers looked for two key indicators of distraction that often lead to crashes: drifting within a lane and stopping over the line. Together, these bad driving practices are responsible for 75 per cent of serious accidents.

When the digital billboards were switched on, researchers found that lane drifting either improved or was unaffected. Stopping over the line significantly improved and no crashes or red light runners were recorded while the billboards were on - apparently because drivers were encouraged to look up from in-car distractions.

These results suggest the "presence of digital billboards may focus lateral attention, reduce visual distraction and improve driving performance", researchers reported.

Road safety billboards like the ones from the 2007 ‘Pinky’ campaign may immediately help drivers be less distracted. Picture: RTA
Road safety billboards like the ones from the 2007 ‘Pinky’ campaign may immediately help drivers be less distracted. Picture: RTA

Dr Paul Roberts, principal researcher for the Australian Road Research Board, said that his team initially theorised the presence of a digital sign might have a negative impact on driving.

"This study showed that it is sometimes possible for a digital sign at an intersection to operate with no negative impact on driver performance, and even, in some cases, to improve it," Dr Roberts said.

Past driver safety campaigns using billboards have had great success in reducing road accidents and deaths.

The 2007 "Pinky" campaign, created in partnership with the NSW Roads & Traffic Authority, won global recognition for the message it sent to young male drivers.

Billboards showed the image of a young woman holding up her pinky finger with the message: "Speeding. No one thinks big of you". Within two years of the campaign, there were 56 fewer road deaths in 17- to 25-year-old males.

Several successful signs were displayed in Victoria in 2008 targeting speeding, motorcyclists and drink driving.

The ‘Time With Mum’ campaign was another successful road safety message. Picture: Road Safety Commission
The ‘Time With Mum’ campaign was another successful road safety message. Picture: Road Safety Commission

In 2016, the "Time with Mum" campaign ran across Western Australia. Its aim was to show young men how much their lives would change if they lost their licence. The billboards listed all the things they would miss out on without a licence.

There were 30,000 less speeding incidences across the state and 70 per cent of the young men surveyed said the campaign worked because it made them think about the embarrassment of losing their licence.

Outdoor Media Association CEO Charmaine Moldrich said it was great to hear their signs could help reduce driver distraction.

"We were already confident that well-designed digital Out of Home signs were safe, but we were surprised to learn that our signs can actually help improve driver performance, probably because they encourage people to look up from in-car distractions," Ms Moldrich said.


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