From The Guardian (18 June 2007)
Greece is mounting a nationwide effort to remove “eye candy” billboards from roadsides, amid growing evidence that images of women wearing not very much contribute to Europe’s worst road accident figures.
With 15,000 hoardings in the capital alone, drivers are distracted by “unacceptable levels of eye candy”, say campaigners who have convinced the courts to rule that all roadside adverts be dismantled.
Billboards invariably depict svelte females in outre poses. “Many of them not only hide traffic lights and road signs, they are put up illegally,” said an Athens traffic police official.
“We believe they are the cause of 10% of all accidents in the city.”
Driving in Greece is not for the faint-hearted. More than 2,000 people die on the roads annually; another 4,000 are seriously injured in 22,000 car accidents a year – one every 24 minutes.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London even highlights the issue in its travel advice for Greece.
This month, drivers faced a new highway code, with fines of up to €700 (£490) for ignoring a stop sign or running through a red light.
The adverse effects of billboards have been highlighted due to the efforts of an Athenian lawyer, Athanasios Tsiokos, who killed his son when he crashed into a billboard on a busy avenue in the capital. He has since campaigned to punish advertising companies, and this year his complaint was upheld by the State Council, which ordered the billboards removed.
Municipalities have begun dismantling them. “This is an issue of public safety and it only happens in our country,” said Aris Stathakis, MP for the ruling New Democracy party. “All the dangerous advertising billboards have to be removed.”
The campaign has not been easy. Corrupt local government officials have long ensured that billboards have flourished. Recently, campaigners have woken up to find that those removed frequently have been re-erected overnight.