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Digital Billboards: What we Know Now. Presented to ASHTO SCOTE Manchester, New Hampshire Jerry Wachtel, The Veridian Group, Inc. June 16, 2009. Inattention vs. Distraction. A driver may be inattentive for many reasons – daydreaming, lost in thought, drowsiness, etc.

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digital billboards what we know now

Digital Billboards:What we Know Now

Presented to ASHTO SCOTE

Manchester, New Hampshire

Jerry Wachtel, The Veridian Group, Inc.

June 16, 2009

inattention vs distraction
Inattention vs. Distraction
  • A driver may be inattentive for many reasons – daydreaming, lost in thought, drowsiness, etc.
  • Distraction - when a driver is delayed in the recognition of information needed to safely accomplish the driving task, because something within or outside the vehicle draws attention away from driving.
  • It is the presence of a “triggering event” that distinguishes distraction from inattention.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

in short
In short:
  • Inattention is passive
    • Drivers can be inattentive at any time and without reason
  • Distraction is active (although it could be unconscious)
    • Drivers engage in many distractions – most of which we cannot control
  • As an example…

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but roadside advertising as a distractor is something that we can control
But roadside advertising as a distractor is something that we can control.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

why are dbbs different
Why are DBBs Different?
  • The human eye is hard-wired to be drawn to the brightest objects in the scene and to those that display motion, or apparent motion.
    • This phenomenon is sometimes called phototaxis or phototropism.
    • Recent research (e.g. Theeuwes) shows that this response is both is automatic and unavoidable.
  • DBBs use both brightness and movement to capture attention.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

how else do dbbs differ from conventional billboards
How Else do DBBs Differ from Conventional Billboards?
  • Size potential – one sign is 90 x 65 ft; 165 ft high
  • Compelling photo-realistic/broadcast imagery
  • Intermittency and image change at will
  • Potential for message sequencing
  • Potential for interactivity with driver

The Veridian Group, Inc.

my biases
My Biases:
  • I have worked for the industry, including OAAA, NESA, and large outdoor advertising firms such as Lamar and Infinity.
  • I have worked for local governments in developing and defending sign ordinances.
  • I have performed research for Government and industry alike.

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my work leads to these conclusions
My Work Leads to These Conclusions:
  • Billboards have gone from paintings on barns, to print on poster paper, to vinyl sheets, and now to digital displays.
  • It’s not the technology of the display that should concern us, but the manner in which that display is used
  • We’re not concerned because they are digital, but because of their operational characteristics coupled with their location.

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in other words
In Other Words:
  • IF a DBB was set to a luminance level appropriate to the ambient environment in which it is viewed, and
  • IF the DBB message change interval was such that no driver saw more than one such change, and
  • IF we ensured that location restrictions (e.g. interchange areas, horizontal curves, merges, lane drops, etc.) were truly enforced,
  • THEN we should not be particularly concerned about safety impacts due to distraction.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

recent research
In recent years, independent research studies have been conducted in several countries:

U.S.

Netherlands

England

Scotland

South Africa

Australia

Brazil

Finland

Studies have included:

Laboratory

Simulation

On-road

Interviews and focus groups

Post-hoc crash analyses

Recent Research

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the research is quite clear
The Research is Quite Clear
  • The more recent the research, the stronger the findings, and
  • The stronger the theoretical basis for understanding the nature of the problem
    • Drivers’ eyes off the road for 1.6 seconds or longer leads to a substantially higher crash rate
    • DBBs can attract drivers’ eyes for longer than 1.6 seconds, and dramatically longer than for conventional billboards.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

only two recent studies show no adverse safety impact
Only Two Recent Studies Show No Adverse Safety Impact
  • Tantala and Tantala
  • Virginia Tech
    • Both sponsored by the outdoor advertising industry
    • Both severely criticized in peer review
    • Both rejected for presentation or publication by TRB
  • Ironically, the Virginia Tech human factors study found substantial degradation in eye glance behavior and did not report it.

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slide16

Glances longer than 1.6 sec = 6% of all glances

Glances longer than 2.0 sec = 2% of all glances

Glances longer than 3.0 sec = 0% of all glances

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slide17

Glances longer than 1.6 sec. = 9% of all glances

Glances longer than 2.0 sec = 5% of all glances

Glances longer than 3.0 sec = 0% of all glances

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slide18

Glances of 1.6 sec or longer = 21% of all glances

Glances of 2.0 sec or longer = 10% of all glances

Glances of 3.0 sec or longer = 2% of all glances

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slide19

Glances of 1.6 sec or longer = 13% of all glances

Glances of 2.0 sec or longer = 7% of all glances

Glances of 3.0 sec or longer = 3% of all glances

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summary of unanalyzed va tech data
Summary of Unanalyzed VA-Tech Data

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conclusions unreported
Conclusions – Unreported
  • DBBs and comparison sites (mostly on-premise DBBs) together produced:
    • 2X as many glances > 1.6 seconds as baseline sites and conventional billboards (34% - 15%)
    • 2.5X as many glances > 2.0 seconds as baseline and conventional sites (17% - 7%)
    • 5% of glances > 3.0 seconds – no such glances were made to baseline or conventional sites.
  • From a pilot study, the authors predicted significantly worse DBB performance at night.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

on premise signs what s wrong with this picture
On-Premise Signs: What’s Wrong with This Picture?
  • The Virginia Tech study found, as expected, that on-premise digital signs were as bad as, if not worse than, DBBs
  • HBA regulates billboards, not on-premise signs
  • These are left to local governments, typically through zoning and land use
  • But, on premise signs may be:
    • Bigger
    • Brighter
    • Closer to the ROW
    • Contain full motion video
    • At or near interchanges, curves, etc.
  • If our concern is driver distraction, isn’t the potential just as high, or higher, for on-premise signs?

The Veridian Group, Inc.

slide23

The World’s Largest Digital Billboard: 90’ x 65’ atop a 165’ Post – Visible for more than 2 Miles Along I-495 in NYC

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advertising signs on the row what does the mutcd say
Advertising Signs on the ROW: What Does the MUTCD Say?
  • Section 1A.01: “Traffic control devices or their supports shall not bear any advertising messages or any other message that is not related to traffic control.”
  • Section 1A.02, requires that TCDs: “fulfill a need,” “convey a clear, simple meaning,” and “command respect from road users.”
  • Section 2E.21: “Changeable message signs shall display pertinent traffic operational and guidance information only, not advertising.”

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what did dudek find
What did Dudek Find?
  • Recent NCHRP study on the use of CMS during non-incident, non-roadwork periods.
  • States and toll authorities reported pressure to display public service messages, safety campaigns, and advertisements, often against the wishes of safety personnel
  • There are excellent guidelines available for design and operation of CMSs – not always followed.

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other lessons from dudek
Other Lessons from Dudek
  • Long messages (e.g. telephone numbers, websites, license plate numbers) take too long to read and may cause drivers to slow
  • Messages “irrelevant” to traffic safety/flow are strongly opposed by motorists
  • Change blindness can occur if a message has changed from irrelevant to relevant
  • Loss of credibility when CMSs display untimely or irrelevant messages
  • These are the very characteristics of advertising signs.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

the next challenge dbbs on vehicles moving in traffic
The Next Challenge:DBBs on Vehicles Moving in Traffic
  • New companies offer DBBs to be displayed on trucks in the traffic stream.
  • Some use 40’ trailers with huge LED screens displaying full motion video.
  • Some governmental agencies are using this technology on public buses and trolleys.
  • Some jurisdictions have amended their sign codes to prohibit such commercial displays.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

slide38

An Interactive Billboard in Belgium

1. The driver sends an SMS using a code from the sign

2. The billboard sends a return message with a question

3. The driver messages a response to the question

4. A correct answer causes the billboard to act like a pinball machine – the driver is entered into a drawing; a wrong answer causes the billboard to “tilt.”

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new research and regulatory activity
New Research and Regulatory Activity
  • FHWA has begun its on-road research study.
    • It will use an instrumented vehicle and highly sophisticated eye movement recording system
    • Research will be done in two different cities
    • Data collection should start this fall
  • FHWA has begun an “International Scan” to learn about activities in other countries
  • TRB Digital Signage subcommittee will develop research needs statements for on-premise and on-road DBBs – we hope for AASHTO support
  • But there is no concerted effort to address interactive DBBs or DBBs on moving vehicles.

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slide40

Driver distraction is an increasing concern – we can’t control all of it…

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thanks very much for your attention
Thanks very much for your attention.

The Veridian Group, Inc.

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