Scenic distractions - Why that eye-catching view or billboard poster is a car accident waiting to happen
Today's cars are rife with distractions.
It seems that along with each new safety feature we see installed - air bags, roll bars, anti-lock brakes and so on - another fiddly gadget or display screen is added too, to restore the safety/danger balance as it were.
Mobile phone holsters and sat-nav systems on your dashboard; CD jukeboxes and mp3 players that store hundreds of tracks in place of the simple tape decks of old; beverage holders, ashtrays and coin storage in ever more ingenious places: all these much-lauded modern conveniences seem engineered to break your concentration and cause a car accident.
But there's another, oft-overlooked source of driver distraction that's been there longer than the roads themselves: the scenery.
Dazzled by nature's splendour
A 2006 survey by Privilege Insurance revealed that jaw-dropping locales like the Lake District, New Forest, Yorkshire Dales or Welsh Valleys had one in four drivers staring off into the distance when their eyes should have been on the road.
Add to that the lure of landmarks such as Stonehenge or the Angel of the North, and the implications for car accident rates become really frightening.
Stood beside the motorway at Tyneside, Antony Gormley's Angel of the North is seen by an estimated 90,000 people every day - one in six of whom, according to the Privilege survey, gets distracted by it. That's 15,000 potential car accidents for just one landmark.
As with many other motoring dangers, young male drivers are particularly vulnerable to the distractions of eye-catching countryside. A whopping one third of men between the ages of 18 and 29 are distracted by the scenery, and a fifth by landmarks.
Ian Parker, Managing Director at Privilege, offered the following advice to motorists: "When driving on unfamiliar roads, it's even more important than usual to concentrate on your driving - no matter how beautiful or fascinating the surrounding landscape may be.
"If you do want to enjoy your surroundings, you will usually find designated parking areas close-by, so you can take in the sites and stay safe," he added.
Of course, mention men crashing their cars because they were watching something besides the traffic and people will assume you're talking about women.
And few other women could be as distracting as the ten-foot-high billboard image of Eva Herzigova in Wondabra's 'Hello boys' campaign during the 1990s.
Resisting the temptation to peek at nature is hard enough, but billboard advertising can be impossible to resist when the placement is good and the image is relevant to you.
And although studies have never conclusively linked eye-catching billboards with road traffic accidents, many motoring groups have condemned them as an unwarranted danger.
When dance label Fantasia posted the image of two bare-chested women about to kiss overlooking a busy London junction, an AA spokesman commented "Having something that's clearly a distraction at a busy junction is not recommended.
"We had similar problems with the Wonderbra ads. Drivers were more interested in them than what was on the road."
HGV driver Harry Durley is one man who fell prey to the distraction of billboard advertising. In 2001, he crashed a 7.5 tonne lorry into backed-up traffic on a London flyover, leaving two people with serious personal injuries and another with whiplash.
Durley, who had been driving lorries for four years, was distracted by a toothpaste commercial on a roadside billboard. "It doesn't matter what it is for," he said, "you just look, and in a split second it ruins your life and nearly ends two others."
Making a car accident claim
The world outside your windscreen is chock-full of stunning visuals, from beautiful sunsets over rolling countryside to the lights of Piccadilly Circus, but tragically, every one is a potential car crash.
Safe driving requires 100% concentration, all of the time, and too many motorists take this for granted. It doesn't matter if it's something on the horizon or on the dashboard; distractions cause road traffic accidents and can cost lives.
If you've been involved in a non-fault car crash, regardless of the cause, you should consider making a personal injury compensation claim with the Car Accident Advice Line.
Our experienced personal injury solicitors work on a no win, no fee basis and you're guaranteed protection from court costs. We also guarantee you'll receive 100% of any compensation that's awarded.
So call 0808 143 43 42 today, and speak to a member of our friendly, UK-based claims team. We know we can help and we're waiting for your call.