Conviction for billboard death

The managing director of a Greek advertising company was on Saturday sentenced to two years and two months in jail in a landmark verdict that blamed him for the manslaughter of a 25-year-old motorist who crashed into a billboard on Kifissias Avenue three years ago. An Athens court deemed that Giorgos Liapis of Master Outdoor SA provoked the death of Yiannis Stavroulakis in December 2005 through neglect. It is the first time that an official from an advertising firm has been convicted for the placement of outdoor billboards, even though this type of advertising was deemed illegal by the Council of State in April 2007. «At last the law regarding illegal billboards is being enforced,» Vassilis Psarionos of the road safety observatory of the Technical Chamber of Greece told Skai. «We still have to get past other hurdles,» Psarianos said, without elaborating. «There are specific prerequisites for outdoor billboards but these are not responsibly enforced by municipal authorities,» said Yiannis Handanos, president of the Hellenic Institute of Transport Engineers. There are certain exceptions to the rule, such as Maroussi Mayor Giorgos Patoulis, who has long campaigned for the removal of billboards from roadsides, saying they pose a dangerous distraction to motorists. Manolis Stavroulakis, the father of the man who died after striking a placard near the Olympic Stadium on Kifissias Avenue, spoke to Skai of «a well-organized system of land mines along the road network.» Stavroulakis blamed «municipalities and political parties» for the problem, which is particularly acute in Maroussi where two people have died in the past year. In 2007 alone, 300 road accidents involving promotional billboards were recorded, eight of which were fatal. The head of the Public Administration Inspectors’ Agency, Leandros Rakintzis, has called for «an independent organization responsible for demolishing (billboards).» «This is the only way that this complex problem will be solved,» he said. The roadsides of Athens are dotted with more than 10,000 billboards, at least half of which are believed to be illegal.