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Why Is Los Angeles Fighting Distracted Driving With Distracting Digital Billboards?

Sorry about the fender bender, I was busy reading that PSA over there.

Why Is Los Angeles Fighting Distracted Driving With Distracting Digital Billboards?

If you're a pedestrian, then there's almost no better place to get hit than Los Angeles.

Photos: Flickr user Lord Jim

The LAPD wants to stop distracted driving. Its primary tool? Digital billboard ads. I kid you not. To teach drivers not to stare at the screens of their cellphones and tablets while they drive, the LAPD will show ads on the big screen. You can't get more LA than that.

The campaign, says Adweek, comes in two parts: one to tell drivers to pay attention to their surroundings, and one to remind them not to flee after they mow somebody down. Ad spots have names like "Man vs. Machine … The Machine Always Wins."

Distracted driving is a serious business in LA. If you're a pedestrian who wants to get hit, then there's no better place in the U.S. to do it, apart from New York.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, says Adweek's Robert Klara, reported 99 traffic-related fatalities in Los Angeles in 2012, and 20,000 hit-and-run incidents. Those numbers are growing every year. Across the country, research by AT&T found that seven out of 10 people "engage in smartphone activities while driving." Sixty-one percent of them are texting, and 10% are doing video chats.

"They're on the phone, they hit someone, and then they flee," the LAPD's Captain Ann Young told Klara. "People look at billboards. They're a great way of advertising."

This isn't going to get any better. Twenty thousand hit-and-runs in a year, in a single city, shows that people just don't care. The answer isn't billboard ads. Perhaps autonomous cars are will solve the problem of distracted driving, letting people get on with whatever it is that they deem more important than not murdering other people, while the car takes care of the driving.

Clear Channel will carry the 10 ads, five on regular billboards, and five on digital. "We think it speaks volumes that the LAPD leans on billboards for their power to communicate a message in a very visible and memorable way," Clear Channel's Layne Lawson said. So visible and memorable that you just might have to look away from the road for a moment, no matter how hard you try to stay focused on driving.

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