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The Effect of Billboards on Driving as a Function of Billboard Type and Size

The influence of advertising billboards on driving performance was tested using two driving simulator experiments. The first experiment studied the combined effects of perceptual load on the road and at the roadside, the location of a critical event, and the presence and size of advertising billboards. The second experiment studied the effect of billboard type, either static, dynamic (three static photos that interchange every 8 sec) or video billboards.

The results of the first experiment demonstrated the importance of the manipulation used. Beyond the various combinations of perceptual load location and critical event location, no effect was found for the billboards. However, many negative effects were attributed to the presence of billboards when specific perceptual load combinations were analyzed. Advertising billboards were found to attract drivers' attention regardkess of their size, and under cerain conditions were shown to impair drivers' performance. We found an increase in the drivers' speed, in RTs to critical events, in the distance that the vehicle advanced from the moment that the event was triggered until the driver responded, and in collision rate. In addition, we found that the perceptual load combination most vulnerable to the presence of billboards was a modarate load (low load) on the road and heavy load (high load) at the roadsides. Small billboards were more problematic, in all combinations, except for the case in which high load on the road was combined with low load on the roadides. We also made several interesting findings when meauring eye movements to determine dwell time on areas of interest. The presence of billboards decreased the dwell time on objects that initiated a critical event. Moreover, long dwell times on the billboards were found, even as the drivers' responded to a critical event. These findings imply that it was difficult for the drivers to ignore the billboards, and once their attention was captured by a billboard it was also hard for them to disengage their attention.

The result of the second experiment showed that all three types of advertising billboards,  i.e., static, dynamic, and video, captured the drivers' attention. In addition, the more the billboard was dynamic in its nature, the more captivationg it became. Video  billboards drew attention more than dynamic ones and dynamic billbords were more captivationg than static ones. This indicated that driving performance deteriorated if a critical event happened to occur at a different location (on the road in the current experiment), but it could be helpful if the event would occur near the billboard that attracted the drivers' attention (similar to the events that were initiated at the roadsides in the current experiment). However, the probability of this incidence is quite low in reality.

The study as a whole implies that under specific conditions attention tdrawn to advertising billboards might have a negative influence on driving performance, and even lead to road accidents. We threrefor recommend that distractive advertising billboards (small, video, and dynamic billboards, as shown in this study)  should not be placed in areas with low perceptual load on the road and high perceptual load at the roadsides.

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