Fears new Tyne Tunnel digital advertising screens are 'accident waiting to happen'
Fears have emerged that new digital advertising screens above the Tyne Tunnel are a major distraction to drivers and could be an accident waiting to happen.
The screens were installed on either side of the busy crossing earlier this month, with advertisers told they can reach more than 55,000 people per day.
But some motorists say that the large ads pose a danger, distracting drivers at a time when they need to focus on entering the tunnel safely.
Reece McAllister, who uses the tunnel every day to drive from his North Tyneside home to work south of the river, said: “The screens are designed to distract you and that is what they are doing.
“I have seen this personally, I have been driving behind a car and the driver is looking at the screen and almost goes straight ahead instead of turning and has then had to swerve.
“People who work for me say they have seen cars going all over the place, you would think the drivers were drunk.
“The whole idea of the screen is to grab your attention, so there is definitely potential for an accident.
“One of the most complex things for a driver is going into a tunnel where several lanes are merging.
“I am not a Victor Meldrew type but I can see there being an accident there. One avoidable accident is too many.”
Mr McAllister, who has been commuting through the Tyne Tunnel for the past four years working for South Shields-based firm Catalage, claims to have witnessed several near misses around the crossing since the screens were installed.
The 42-year-old added: “I go through there every morning and evening and most of my staff do as well.
“We are in the oil and gas industry, so it is in our DNA to speak up if you see something that is going to cause an accident.”
Similar concerns were raised when a large electronic screen was placed above the Central Motorway in Newcastle in 2014, with council bosses then accused of putting profit before drivers’ safety.
But Tyne Tunnel operator TT2 insists that the ad screens are in a “safe and appropriate” spot.
A spokesperson for the Tyne Tunnels said: “Prior to placing the advertising boards, their positioning was approved by the Road Safety Initiatives, which advised us on a safe and appropriate placement of the digital boards. There are several of these boards on roads throughout the region, and safety was our main priority when we planned our location.
“Generally, the feedback has been positive about the boards, and customers have been asking for more, instantly accessible traffic updates.
“These boards will enable us to improve communications with our customers about delays or incidents in the tunnels, as well as providing information on improvements to our products and services such as the pre-paid app and pre-paid direct debits.”