Countless schemes have attempted to stop people texting while driving, but none have gone quite as far as public shaming, until now.
"I've been blown away by the number of people texting while in traffic, on the freeway," Brian Singer told gadget site Gizmodo. "For every nose picker, there's 20 texters. Unofficial estimation by me."
At any one moment, approximately 660,000 drivers in the US are using their mobile phones or another electronic device while driving, a figure that has remained unchanged since 2010, according to data from National Occupant Protection Use Survey.
Texting and driving is dangerous as it removes a driver’s attention from the road, and is as illegal California as it is in the UK, carrying a maximum fine of $190 in the state.
The average driving texter has their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds, which at speeds of 55mph equates to traveling the length of football pitch (100m) without looking at the road, according to research by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Californian police have initiated a crackdown on distracted drivers, but not to the extent of those in New York who have deployed unmarked SUVs to catch drivers in the act. It is also now common practice for insurance investigators to request mobile phone logs for accidents, with around 80% of vehicular accidents in the US involve driver distraction, of which mobile phone use in the number one cause.
Texting while in traffic
Singer first started an anonymous site for distributing photos of texting drivers along his commuting route through San Francisco called “Texting while in traffic” (Twit), but decided to increase public awareness through the use of 11 large billboards dotted about the city.
He initially set out to partner with a driving awareness organisation for the billboards, but ended up personally funding the adverts, which will remain on display through early April and Distracted Driver Awareness Month.
"My hope is that it will freak some people out and make them think twice before picking up the phone while driving," said Singer. "My greater hope is that it inspires others to start taking photos, too. If enough people started doing this, it could have a dramatic affect on people's behaviour."
Singer encourages others to get involved by snapping pictures and posting them publicly on social media or by sending them into the Twit Spotting website in an effort to change offenders’ behaviour.
• A court dismissed a ticket issued to a San Diego driver originally given for driving while using Google Glass
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010