Your most surprising driving distractionHospital visit, next exit? Roadside billboards mess with your mind--and your right foot--long after you've refocused on the road, new research shows.
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The results: When billboards featured negative words, the drivers tended to slow down and veer from their lanes, according to the study. The drivers were also slower to spot the target words, which proves the negative language was distracting, says study author Michelle Chan, a Ph.D. student at Alberta. On the other hand, positive words caused drivers to push the pedal to the metal after they'd passed the billboard.
And it's not just words, Chan says. Negative or positive images are likely to have similar effects. Ironically, those frightening billboards showing car wrecks and warning about the dangers of drinking or texting
while driving may actually distract you into an accident, the research suggests.
How can you protect yourself? You're already halfway there. Just knowing that billboards cause distraction can help drivers keep their minds (and eyes) on the road, Chan says. Billboards are especially dangerous in urban areas and on busy roadways, and Chan says she hopes policymakers will enforce stronger regulations regarding where ads can be placed. In the meantime, lowering your visor to block elevated ads could also help, the study suggests.
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