Contrary to what one might assume, the presence of digital roadside signs do not necessarily distract drivers, according to new research from Australia.

The Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) measured driver behaviour before and after digital billboards were erected at two Queensland intersections, capturing data at peak times over a period of four weeks.

Researchers looked at two specific indicators of driver distraction which are known to increase the risk of an accident, B&T reported.

One was lane drift (veering within the lane), the other was stopping over the line (or failing to stop correctly at an intersection).

Following the activation of the new digital billboards, researchers observed driver behaviour when exposed to a range of dwell times – the length of time an ad is displayed before it changes – and reported that: lane drift either improved or was unaffected; stopping over the line improved; no crashes occurred.

ARRB principal research Dr Paul Roberts said: “Although we considered the introduction of a digital sign at an intersection would probably reduce driver performance, 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.”

The findings were welcomed by the Outdoor Media Association. CEO Charmaine Moldrish said the industry was already confident that well-designed digital OOH signs were safe.

But she was still surprised to learn that signs could actually help improve driver performance – “probably because they encourage people to look up from in-car distractions”.

Separate research from the Accident Research Centre at Monash University suggests that the great majority of driver distraction (88%) takes place inside the vehicle and little is down to external stimuli.

“We hope this research prompts governments around Australia to streamline dwell time regulation of Out of Home signs,” she added, “given they can improve driver performance.”

Sourced from B&T; additional content by WARC staff