UK drivers are putting themselves at risk because they struggle to keep their eyes on the road.
Roadside objects such as billboards, flashing signs and Christmas decorations cause a third of motorists (32 per cent) to lose concentration while behind the wheel. And 41 per cent of these drivers confess to being distracted for up to 5 seconds – which equates to driving 15 car lengths at 30mph – two and a half times the stopping distance needed at this speed. At 60mph, this means drivers would find themselves travelling at least the length of a football pitch without their full concentration on the road.
Overall roadside distractions are pulling the attention of 83 per cent of UK drivers away from the roads, Privilege finds.
And it’s male drivers who are most affected as one in five (22 per cent) confess to being captivated by scantily-clad women on adverts, compared to just one in ten female drivers by semi-naked male models (11 per cent).
As public spaces become cluttered with illuminating and moving visuals, 26 per cent of British drivers have been distracted by huge advertising hoardings, a fifth (21 per cent) by the new vehicle activated signs and 17 per cent by Christmas lights and decorations.
Dr Mark Young, an expert in transport ergonomics at Brunel University, said:
“While we currently know a lot more about in-vehicle distractions such as mobile phones than external distractors, there is a growing body of concern about the lack of any coherent strategy for arranging roadside furniture.
“Drivers’ visual workload varies through the course of a journey, and at crucial times – negotiating a difficult roundabout, for example, there is a small but significant risk of distraction from novel stimuli like advertising. In fact, this risk is probably underestimated and we need to do more research on the possibility of excluding non-essential information when the driver is already busy dealing with the road.
Ian Parker, Managing Director of Privilege Insurance, said:
“It appears that the development of new technologies, products and advertising techniques is getting in the way of road safety. The implications of the increase in eye-catching roadside objects such as illuminating signs has not been monitored until today. Privilege is providing motorists with tips on how to concentrate while driving amid the increase in distracting objects.”
To help drivers focus on the roads, relevant signs and drive as safely as possible, Privilege is providing drivers with the following tips and advice:
Try to take notice only of official signs and notices which are crucial for driving. Try saying them out loud as you pass them if it helps make you concentrate on them. If someone asks you what the last sign was, you should be able to tell them.
Constantly scan the road environment for other potential hazards. Don’t let your vision wander off from the beaten track.
When you are stationary try to keep your gaze on the traffic in front – or any road signals. Listen to mid-paced music to relieve boredom, rather than allow your concentration to wander to roadside distractions.