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Groundbreaking Traffic Research Study Released

Billboards do not measurably affect driving performance, according to a new study by the Center for Crash Causation and Human Factors at Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute (VTTI), one of the nation’s leading research institutions on transportation and driving performance. The authoritative Virginia Tech study determined that a driver’s performance, speed maintenance, and lane keeping were not measurably impaired in any way along highways and other roads with billboards.

Using actual driving conditions, the Virginia Tech research project analyzed the driving behavior of participants at billboard sites, comparison sites and baseline sites along a 35-mile loop. The cars used in the study were equipped with cameras that captured the forward view and two views of the driver’s face and eyes as well as a data collection system to capture speed, lane deviation, GPS location and other driving performance measurements.

“As a matter of fact, a more rigorous examination of individual billboards that could be considered to be the most visually attention-getting showed no relationship between glance location and billboard location,” according to Dr. Suzanne Lee of VTTI, the project’s Principal Investigator.

The results of the drivers’ visual performance indicate no measurable distinction between billboard sites and comparison sites such as logo boards, on-premise signs and other roadside objects. In addition, there was no difference in visual behavior in terms of the age of the driver, their familiarity with the road or what side of the road they were on.

“VTTI is excited to have been given the opportunity to participate in this research,” said Dr. Thomas Dingus, Director of the Virginia Tech Transportation Research Institute and a nationally recognized transportation safety expert.

The study was commissioned by the Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education (FOARE).  “The foundation undertook this research because no recent government or private industry study has examined a cause and effect link between outdoor advertising and driver behavior, despite increasing concern over a wide range of driver distraction issues,” said FOARE Chairman Charles Lamar. “This study definitively provides empirical evidence that outdoor advertising in no way inhibits driver performance.”


Thirty-six participants, unaware of the underlying purpose of the study, drove an instrumented vehicle with no researcher present. The participants represented a range of age, gender, ethnicity, income and education levels. The route was a 35-mile loop-route in Charlotte, North Carolina , consisting of both interstate and surface streets. A total of 30 billboards, six comparison sites, and six baseline sites were analyzed in terms of nine eye glance measures and two driving performance measures. 

About VTTI

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute is a pre-eminent university research center dedicated to the development and dissemination of advanced transportation knowledge.  Research is focused on evaluation and deployment of advanced technology in areas of safety and human factors in driving.  As Virginia Tech’s largest institute, VTTI employs over 80 research faculty and staff and utilizes the services of over 100 graduate and undergraduate student workers from Virginia Tech.  The organization has been chosen as one of the countries three Federal Highway Administration-sponsored Intelligent Transportation Systems research centers of excellence. 


The Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education is a 501(c)(3) charitable foundation. FOARE supports research and provides an educational forum and structure to assess new and emerging issues related to the outdoor advertising industry.  The foundation also provides academic scholarships for students enrolled in undergraduate and graduate-level studies based on economic need, academic standing and field of study.



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