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Federal Government Research: Digital Billboards “Well Below” Distraction Threshold

Contact: Nicole Hayes
(202) 833-5566
For Immediate Release – May 17, 2012
Federal Government Research:
Digital Billboards “Well Below” Distraction Threshold
(Washington, DC) – Driver distraction caused by digital billboards is well below the safety limits established by the U.S. government, according to federal research obtained by the media and the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) via the Freedom of Information Act.

In 2009 and 2010, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and its contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) studied drivers’ behavior using sophisticated eye-movement recording equipment.

The summary of the study said the maximum eye glance in the direction of a digital billboard was 1.28 seconds (click here for summary). The outcome was “well below accepted ‘concern’ thresholds,” said an FHWA briefing memo on the research (click here for briefing memo). The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has set the “concern” threshold at two seconds – the period beyond which distracted driving was deemed to be dangerous. (click here).

“This new federal research validates previous findings,” said Nancy Fletcher, president and CEO of OAAA. “For years, we looked at driver behavior and accident reports, and did not find a correlation to accidents. This data provides fresh evidence for the same finding.”

A summary of the FHWA research was first released to under a Freedom of Information Act request. FairWarning detailed the study’s findings in February; the article is posted at

After the FairWarning article appeared, OAAA requested and received the same information from the agency.

The full report has not yet been released to the public. Reviewers who were invited by FHWA to evaluate its study criticized its methodology. For example, one reviewer complained that the average age of drivers in one of the test markets was only 22. The agency says the full report is undergoing internal review; FHWA plans to scrutinize the reviewers’ comments.
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OAAA is the national trade association for the out of home (OOH) advertising industry. Founded in 1891, the association represents more than 90 percent of the US industry based on revenues. OAAA is dedicated to leading and uniting a responsible OOH industry committed to serving advertisers, consumers, and communities. The OOH industry generates $6.4 billion annually in ad revenues and donates more than $400 million in space each year. For more information, please visit


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