Researchers in Australia have found that roadside advertising may actually reduce visual distraction and improve driving performance.
The study, carried out by the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) on behalf of the Outdoor Media Association (OMA), measured driver behaviour in the presence of two digital billboards in real-world environments.
Drivers were unaware of the study, which captured video data of vehicle movement around two complex intersections in Queensland.
The intersections were filmed without any signage as well as in the presence of an outdoor digital billboard several times over a 24-hour period for four weeks in order to gauge the effect on safety.
Researchers analysed two key indicators of distraction known to increase the chances of a collision – lane drift and stopping over the line at an intersection.
The research found lane drift was unaffected, or results improved, when signage was displayed. In addition, stopping over the line improved in all but one case. No crashes were recorded.
The findings have led researchers to conclude the presence of digital billboards ‘may focus lateral attention, reduce visual distraction and improve driving performance’.
Dr Paul Roberts, ARBB principal researcher, said: “This study showed it is sometimes possible for a digital sign at an intersection to operate with no negative impact on driver performance and, in some cases, to improve it.”
Charmaine Moldrich, CEO of OMA, which represents Australia’s outdoor media display companies, said: “We were already confident that well-designed digital out-of-home advertising were safe.
“But we were surprised to learn that our signs can actually help improve driver performance, probably because they encourage drivers to look up from in-car distractions.”