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On the road: Turning heads

By / 7 years ago / Comment / No Comments


Itself reeking gently of self-promotion on the part of the car leasing company responsible (which shall remain nameless… Ha!), an email landed recently suggesting that promotional messages on the sides of commercial vehicles should be banned.

'With roadside clutter and unnecessary road signs grabbing the attention of overworked drivers already acknowledged as a road safety factor, an increasing number of road users tell us that their heads have been turned by these mobile adverts when they were supposed to be concentrating on the road,' the release thunders.

Surely, roadside clutter is called “life”; if you can’t drive with that going on outside the window, catch a bus. And the only truly unnecessary road sign I recall was when I had occasion to drive through Lambeth a few decades ago, declaring the borough to be a “Nuclear Free Zone”. Try telling that to the multiple warheads of an incoming ICBM I thought at the time…

Anyway, of the 1,500 drivers polled, some 23% owned up to trying to key a website address advertised on the back of a van or lorry into their phones whilst driving, 10% said they had tried to take a photo of a promotional offer with their phone, and 1% – that’s 15 whole numpties – admitted to having tried to scan a QR code off a lorry on the move.

Thing is, what good is an advertisement if it doesn’t actually fulfil its sole purpose in distracting you sufficiently to take in the information offered? That said, isn’t harvesting such information on the move rather a peculiar alternative to Google, or the Yellow Pages?

I just so happen to be looking for someone to help me with a small but complex dry stone walling job at the moment. In that context, ambling about in a car armed with a mobile phone doesn’t strike me as entirely the most satisfactory search engine available. And if it were, I’d carry a dictaphone into which to mutter phone and web contact details…

Honestly, I can recall only one ad that so ruthlessly fulfilled its remit as to actually cause accidents, and that was the “Hello Boys” Wonderbra campaign: this marvellous, 48-sheet billboard display of entirely delicious embonpoint undoubtedly accounting for a veritable raft of unsolicited punts up the luggage.

Speaking of which, another, more recent accident statistic-related email is far more interesting in suggesting that the occurrence of rear-end shunts has increased by some 7% over the last three years, and now constitutes a third of all accidents.

“There’s no obvious explanation” the release suggests, “because the nation’s roads are full of safer, more advanced vehicles which, in some cases, are supposed to help a driver to avoid collisions.”

Oh yes there is. Quite simply, most of the drivers of these safer, more advanced vehicles have got their noses in their laps, texting, because of course, using the phone is against the law. So they are being more sneaky, which means they’re even more distracted than they were before.

And the supposition that the era of Bluetooth® connectivity obviates those still holding phones to their ears from excuse is, frankly, somewhat flaky. Never mind the fact that I have spent so much time in so many lay-bys trying to pair my phone with so many cars that I have, to date, been offered honorary membership of at least three different dogging websites.

Truth is, the last thing a young, social network-obsessed generation can afford is a car posh enough to boast such a system, texting’s cheaper anyway, and Facebook’s no fun if you can’t read the screen in the first place.

But on the scale of distracting activities, I reckon there’s one that makes talking on a phone look like a mere bagatelle: most people on motorways appear to already drive with one hand on the wheel and two eyes on the footwell because they’re busy feeding their faces. I’d hazard that the eyes-down threat of meltdown from an errant Malteser or the scalding-hot filling from a Ginsters Crab and Social Worker pasty constitutes a far greater hazard to road safety than a quick chat with the missus.

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