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‘When digital billboards become a nuisance’

SITEMBILE SIWAWA, Lusaka
DIGITAL billboards are increasingly becoming the standard way of advertising in Zambia particularly in the capital, Lusaka.
Found at almost every corner of the busy streets, digital bill boards command numerous advantages.
A billboard (also called a hoarding in the many other parts of the world) is a large outdoor advertising structure, typically found in high-traffic areas such as alongside busy roads
The digital bill board is the preferred mode advertising because when placed along highways or busy streets, it is a guarantee that people will see it as it can be placed where the most impact can be felt.
And passers-by normally get hooked to the scrolling adverts and are therefore, attracted.
But how about when digital board bill become a distraction particularly to motorists driving in the night?
Yes, today, the light and brightness emanating from digital bill boards at the night have become what motorists describe as an eyesore.
Mwila Sikombwa, a motorist of Lusaka said the brightness emanating from the digital bill boards is too much for the eyes, especially when one is driving at night.
He noted that when the brightness and light is too much for the eyes, a motorist can easily cause an accident.
“You know when light becomes too much it is possible for one to cause an accident and kill innocent people”, he said.
Meanwhile, Felix Banda another motorist appealed to the relevant authorities to order the companies responsible for mounting digital bill boards to reduce the intensity of light emanating from the bill boards.
Mr Banda said inasmuch as digital bill boards are good for advertising, there should be consideration for the motorists as regards accidents.
The plea by motorists has reached the ears of the local authorities who have since asked the multimedia companies to reduce the light from digital bill boards to avoid accidents.
During a physical inspection of digital bill boards in Lusaka recently, deputy mayor Portipher Tembo charged that all multimedia companies should reduce the lighting coming from their bill boards.
As he inspected the bill board at Woodlands Shopping Mall roundabout that was mounted by Continental Outdoor Media, Mr Tembo was dismayed that the bill board business that is bringing in revenue to the council was somewhat contributing to the loss of lives.
Mr Tembo suggested that the multimedia companies must reduce the lighting from bill boards to at least three percent brightness from the current five percent.
The deputy mayor also raised an issue with the location of most bill boards. He noted that sometimes, it was disturbing to find that the location of some bill boards were an obstruction to motorists from having a clear view of where they were going.
And Council director engineering services Maliwa Muchuu expressed shock over the failure by some companies to remove digital bill boards despite being written to.
He said motorists raised complaints of having accidents at that Woodlands Shopping Complex because of the brightness coming from the bill boards and called for their removal.
But Continental Outdoor Media business development and operations manager Sekani Nkhata confirmed having been written to but they were waiting for guidelines on where to place their bill board once it is moved from the present location.
Mr Nkhata said: “We have been waiting for the council and Road Transport Safety Agency to tell us where to place the bill board; up to now, we have not been told. We have no problem removing it and reducing its brightness. We will send our people to inspect the intensity of the light at night to ascertain where the problem is”.
He said during the day, their bill board brightness is at 100 percent but is reduced to five percent at night.
However, promised to further reduce the lightning system to maybe three percent in accordance in line with demands from motorists who are usually affected.
A study by Virginia Tech in the United States (2006) found anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds greatly increases the risk of a crash.
That study found nearly 80 per cent of all crashes involve driver inattention within three seconds of the crash.
And Swedish and German researchers in a study in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention published in January 2013, found that digital billboards attract and hold drivers’ gazes longer than the threshold that previous studies had shown to be dangerous.
The study found that drivers looked at these colourful, rapidly changing billboards significantly longer than they do at other signs on the same stretch of road – the digital versions often took a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds.

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