City of Blinding Lights
By Hardesh Singh February 22, 2023
- Sustainability aspirations and implementation are often detached
- Big Tree should act ASAP, proof of driver hazard provided for mgmt
Automotive site paultan.org ran a story in January looking at the brightness of billboards in Klang Valley. They took the trouble to measure brightness levels along various stretches of roads and highways and compared them to the specifications provided for by the relevant authorities. It is well worth a read if you haven’t yet.
The story got me thinking again about an issue that has been bugging me for some time now, and I finally decided to write about it. I never got around to doing it before because of the extra effort to head out and take pictures in KL at night.
Electronic billboards are an annoyance and can potentially be dangerous to road users if too bright. That should seem obvious. But where it gets especially dangerous is if they are situated too close to traffic signals. Unfortunately, this is more common than you might imagine.
Do you see what the problem is in the pixs here? A close-up is the pic on the right.
Chances are you are looking at this stationary. Now imagine you are driving along this road, and like most drivers, are probably distracted. Here’s an old study from 2003 which found that “excluding talking to passengers, drivers engaged in a potentially distracting activity 16.1% of the time that their cars were moving”.
How soon would you be able to spot the traffic lights?
The pictures above were taken along Jalan Damansara (opposite Pizza Hut in Taman Tun), a busy main road in Selangor. Below are two more pictures from the same location.
Here’s one along Persiaran Kewajipan in USJ, a suburb in Selangor. (pic below)
The electronic billboards in both these locations belong to Big Tree, apparently. This is based on their own location listing information.
I am sharing two other locations in the visual below. This is just to demonstrate how common this issue is. I was not able to identify who the media owners were in these locations.
Every now and again we hear calls from various parties to make our roads safer. What often gets overlooked are the adjacent contributions to driving hazards, and billboards in this case are clearly an issue. In fact, it shouldn’t be a stretch to label these acts as absolutely irresponsible on the part of billboard owners. And it is especially dangerous for senior citizens on the road.
The Royal Malaysian Police had, back in 2021, called for more restrictions on driving among senior citizens. One of the reasons cited was poor eyesight. As we move into an aged society, the more sustainable approach would be to ensure that our infrastructure changes to suit our shifting demography rather than excluding people from their rightful access to liveability.
Wrapping ESG around existing businesses.
This is an example of how businesses can claim to be working towards being more sustainable and yet not recognise potential liabilities. What was once taken for granted can instead end up being an area of concern when viewed through a sustainability lens. Big Tree is an entity of Media Prima Bhd, and like most public listed companies, publishes sustainability reports. Its sustainability report lists ‘social’ as a core focus area, with an undertaking to ‘manage business impact on people’.
From Media Prima’s Sustainability Report 2021
Its electronic billboard business is negatively impacting people in this case, and chances are that management is not even aware of it. The intention for sustainability and the actual implementation in this business unit is detached.
As we have covered before, this is quickly turning into grounds for litigation. An earnest approach would require companies to comb through all existing businesses and mark them against standards that they never even considered before. Or they can wait for others to do it for them. They should count themselves lucky if it is just a media outlet and not activists with lawsuits who do them that favour.