Do Billboards Cause Accidents?

While they’re great for advertisers, billboards might not be so great for drivers. Anyone who paid attention in driver’s ed knows that visual distractions are a bad thing. Moreover, any visual stimuli has the potential to cause an accident, but billboards are specifically placed there specifically to grab your attention.

While there has never been much data proving that billboards cause accidents, there is more than enough data to suggest that they are certainly a factor in distracted driving. Billboards can have a notable impact on your driving performance, mental workload, and your ability to spot and follow road signs. But unless you’re planning on going up against “Big Ad” to have billboards banned in the US, you better buckle up and prepare yourself for another potential distraction on the road.

billboards cause accidents
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How Do Billboards Affect Driver Attention?

Billboards are one of the most effective advertising methods. Digital billboards are even more effective at grabbing your attention, with their fancy, colorful pixels and whatnot. Billboards only exist to get your attention; they’re certainly not adding anything in terms of visual beauty. Their vibrancy and eye-catching visuals are great for making you want whatever they’re selling but do little to make the roads safer.

Visual clutter is generally distracting. Drivers who engage in visually demanding tasks are at higher risk of getting in an accident than those who pay attention to the road. Glances for two seconds or more double their crash risk. The longer you’re not focusing on the road, the more likely your risk of accident gets. At 60 mph, looking away from the road for even 30 seconds means missing a half-mile of road.

Another way to put it is if you’re too busy chuckling at a clever jewelry billboard, you have less time to react to sudden emergencies. You could rear end another car, crash into an old lady crossing the street, or blow right through a red light. And all because of that super funny, Clio-winning billboard. You can feel the brooding Don Draper drinking to his creative success, can’t you?

Not Every Billboard, but Maybe This One?

Not all billboards are distracting. Some are completely harmless as they direct you to an IHOP or remind you that you need to drink more soda. There are some, however, that may be so distracting as to cause an accident. Take, for example, a Texas distracted driving prevention campaign that was found to actually cause more accidents. In the effort to inform the public of the dangers of distracted driving, they created new distractions. Talk about irony.

If a billboard was so distracting that you lose focus on the road for more than two seconds and get into an accident, you may have to ring up your local car accident lawyer. You can only go so hard in an advertisement. If your big, bright Shark Week ad is causing accidents, it’s time to chill out.

There aren’t many regulations on how intense a billboard can be in their quest for driver attention. Unless you’re living in a state too pretty and too good for billboards. States like Vermont, along with Hawaii, Alaska, and Maine, have actually banned billboards. Some cities and local municipalities have also sought to ban certain billboards over the years.

Limited studies reaffirm the negative impact billboards have on driver attention. While they may not be the cause of accidents, they can certainly contribute to distracted driving and increase the risk of accidents. But billboards likely aren’t going anywhere, unless you’re in one of the more “visually appealing” states that already banned them.

Just like you’ve been trained to avoid pedestrians and potholes, you need to refrain from letting the sticky tentacles of capitalism pull you in with its enticing imagery, lest you become another statistic in a road safety study. A quick glance can sometimes be more than enough to cause a multi-car pileup.

Carla Joseph is a renowned law writer who seamlessly blends her expertise in the legal field with her exceptional writing skills. With a legal degree and years of practice as a legal professional, Carla has dedicated herself to making the law accessible to a wider audience. Through her captivating articles and blog posts, she demystifies complex legal concepts and presents them in an engaging and relatable manner. Carla's unique ability to combine her legal knowledge with a compelling writing style has earned her widespread recognition and respect. Her work not only educates readers but also inspires them to engage with the law, empowering individuals with a deeper understanding of their rights and obligations.