Digital billboards called serious distraction
WALNUT CREEK, Calif. — Many drivers say the large digital billboards flashing ads every few seconds along Bay Area freeways are just too bright and too distracting.
And they may be right.
A Swedish study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention concludes that digital billboards hold the gaze of drivers longer than two seconds. Previous studies have shown that anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road for longer than two seconds increases the risk of a crash.
“This study validates what is common sense when it comes to digital billboards,” said a statement from Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America, a national nonprofit group that seeks to limit billboards. “Bright, constantly changing signs on the side of the road are meant to attract and keep the attention of drivers, and this study confirms that is exactly what they do.”
The report will be presented to a national transportation conference in Washington later this month and is sure to draw interest over the growing installation of these signs. Last month, a three-judge panel ordered the removal of 100 digital billboards in Los Angeles, and Denver has banned them.
The Federal Highway Administration allowed digital signs for the first time in 2007 after concluding they did not pose a significant danger to drivers. But a follow-up report is pending and could be released this year.
California has no law banning the billboards and is one of 39 states that allows them.
“We would need to review more research, so it's premature to call for a ban,” said Jonathan Adkins, executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association. “There is a role for digital messaging such as that employed by states to convey Amber Alerts and other safety messages.”
Revenue is why more digital billboards are being installed in cities strapped for cash, such as San Jose.
There are more than 1,800 digital billboards nationwide — more than double the number five years ago.
Insurance agent David Whitlock says he has found them to be a major distraction.
“The brightness is by far too bright for at night,” he says. “When the advertisement switches from a brighter color to a darker color, your eyes cannot adjust fast enough, and you end up losing vision of the roadway.”
Officials with sign companies could not be reached for comment, but Bryan Parker, an executive vice president for Clear Channel Outdoor, told USA Today last year that “there's no doubt in my mind that they are not a driving distraction.”
Several years ago, a study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute concluded the signs did not pose a danger, but its findings have been challenged by critics.
The Federal Highway Administration requires states to regulate the distance between signs and how long one image can remain on screen before changing to another.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 66 riders safely evacuated as 400-foot Ferris wheel stops in Florida
- Solar-powered plane crosses Pacific Ocean
- Arizona prison says 700 inmates again ‘refusing to comply’
- Obama’s planned trip to Ethiopia riles some emigres
- After year of Washington legal pot sales, taxes top $70M
- Believers at S.C. church acknowledge pain, anger challenge their tenets
- After years in obscurity, Medal of Honor recipient to be reburied with military honors
- Washington’s wildfire season gets off to an early, unprecedented start
- Volunteers key in marine rescues
- Some Texans fear military training mission has ulterior motives at Obama’s direction
- Pentagon leery of Russia’s ‘hybrid warfare’