Deadly Billboards

Context: Incidents of giant outdoor billboards crashing and becoming death traps are becoming common in urban environments.
  • A Recent incident in Coimbatore has brought attention to the giant outdoor billboards transforming into perilous death traps.
Notified Rules:
  • In April, the Tamil Nadu Urban Local Bodies Rules 2023 were notified, with terms for the licensing of hoardings, banners and placards.
  • Amid concerns that billboards would mushroom in cities, the Minister for Municipal Administration had explicitly said the rules were notified to ensure that unauthorised billboards are not allowed. 
  • Occasional corrective actions have most often been the result of the intervention of the judiciary or triggered by fatal accidents.
Concerns:
  • With lucrative outdoor advertising rights being cornered by politically influential individuals and cartels, there is little administrative will to enforce legal and all-weather structural stability requirements. 
  • A lack of manpower in municipalities to enumerate unlicensed hoardings, periodically inspect authorised billboards, and act against unstable or illegal ones, also contributes to accidents.
  • The judiciary, which calls for a regulation of billboards, often passes orders restraining authorities from removing unauthorised ones. 
  • International studies have pointed to billboards being dangerous distractions on roads as they affect a driver’s response time, vehicle lateral control and situational awareness.
Steps need to be taken:
  • Violators deserve stringent punishment; in the case of deaths, it would be appropriate to slap graver charges, blacklist and recover compensation from them, and also prosecute complicit officials.
  • Accidents caused by dangerous distractions must be documented in the annual Road Accidents in India report, which could help in devising better policies on billboards and the outdoor advertising market, globally poised to grow to $67.8 billion in 2023.
Source: The Hindu

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