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Greece puts brakes on its racy billboards May 11, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.

Greek motorists are being driven to distraction by giant billboards, featuring nude or scantily clad models, that crowd the sides of motorways.

Authorities say that up to 10 per cent of traffic accidents can be blamed on drivers who have taken their eye off the road to ogle models advertising cigarettes, perfume and mobile phone services.

Now local councils are being ordered to enforce the law by curtailing the billboards, many of which have been put up illegally with the connivance of planning authorities who are bribed by advertising agencies.

An estimated 15,000 illegal billboards tower over the roads in the Athens area alone. Many of them hide road signs, traffic lights and other vital signals. Particularly dangerous, says a lobbying group, are those billboards that carry a series of rolling advertisements so that the eye of a motorist can be too easily tempted to linger to see what it will show next, especially if it is a curvaceous model showing a lot of skin. Hundreds of illegal billboards are flimsily built and regularly blow away in strong winds.

The Public Order Ministry, which is carrying out a nation-wide survey of hazardous billboards, says that many fatalities occur as victims are thrown out of the car doors on to concrete and metal structures at the roadside.

The death rate on Greek roads, once the highest in Europe, has been in decline as motorways become safer, and drivers take care of their new cars in an increasingly prosperous nation. Yet with the opening of new roads has come a deluge of billboard advertising that is already triggering protests by environmentalists.

Advertising in Greece is largely unregulated, especially in the area of sexual content. Many borough officials are believed to accept bribes from advertising agencies putting up eye-catching signs. Fist-fights sometimes result when municipalities try to take them down. Aggravating the problem is the tendency of many businesses, from private clinics to car repair garages, to cram pavements with directions identical in colour and format to official road signs, confusing drivers.

Archaeologsts are incensed that illegal advertisements often obscure museums and archaeological sites. “There is no political will to do anything about it,” said Victoria Efthymiadou, of the Athens Office for the Unification of Archaeological sites.

The borough of Maroussi, home of the Olympic stadium, last week began taking down hundreds of illegal signs. It said that the task would take a month and a half to complete.

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