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Scenic Missouri

An Ally of Scenic America

Digital Billboards

Did you know?  Digital Billboards are Energy Hogs.

Read this report from SCRUB: the Public Voice for Public Space.

Read this report from the U.S. GREEN BUILDING COUNCIL.

What's Wrong With Digital Signs?

Highway Safety

Brightest object in the driver's field of vision, especially at night - Half mile viewing

Cause inadvertent and instinctual glances that distract the driver

Images rotate every 6 or 8 seconds causing lingering looks to see what’s next

Complex messages often take 5 seconds to comprehend

Common Sense Backed by Studies

How Can it Be Safe for Motorists and Still Be an Effective Advertisement?

Anything that distracts the driver from the forward roadway for more than two seconds significantly increases the chances of crashes and near crashes.

23% of crashes and near-crashes that occur in metropolitan environments are attributable to eyes off the forward roadway greater than two seconds.

Nearly 80% of the crashes and 65% of near crashes were caused by distractions that made the driver look away for up to three seconds.

If the motorist spends enough time to read and comprehend the sign, by definition they have taken their eyes away from the driving task too long

Digital signs are designed to pull drivers’ attention from the roadway, otherwise they are useless as advertising

Drivers already have too much distraction inside and outside the car

Digital signs, because they are especially distracting due to bright light, vibrant color, and image changes or motion, divert attention from official signs that are necessary for the safe operation of the car

WHY are Billboard Companies in a Hurry?

Federal Highway Administration Studies ARE coming

Federal Highway Administration has a multiple phase safety study underway (first phase completion summer 2010)

The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is sponsoring preliminary research leading to future investigations

The Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences is conducting a human-factors workshop and will manage AASHTO research

Our Cities Could be Exposed to Enormous Liability

The Highway Beautification Act requires cash compensation to sign owners of billboards on Interstate and federal-aid highways

Compensation is usually defined as the value of the structure, plus lost revenue, making each digital sign worth millions of dollars

The costs of compensating billboard owners will be enormous even in the course of normal highway widenings and improvements if the signs need to be moved or taken down

Once studies are completed, and if the signs are found to be unsafe in their current configurations, any required changes to sign operations may cost governments millions in compensation payments

Who will be held liable if accidents are influenced by the signs if it is shown that governments knowingly permitted their construction even in the face of pending research or critical safety studies?

Big Business Has Big Studies - Big Surprise

Another classic con trick is to throw enough "important sounding" studies up that the audience then thinks that it "must be true"

The billboard industry sponsored two studies of digital signs in Cleveland conducted by Suzanne E. Lee and Tantala Associates, purporting to show they are safe

According to the Philadelphia Inquirer (8/21/07), Clear Channel claims they paid for the research, although the reports say the Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education, an arm of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America

The Maryland State Highway Administration commissioned human-factors expert Jerry Wachtel to assess the validity of the studies and prepare a peer-review report.

The Wachtel report found serious problems with Clear Channel's research studies including:

Decisions and assumptions made in support of the research

Methodology

Review and application of cited literature

Statistical methods, controls, and analysis

Misleading and inconsistent reporting and evidence of bias

Cities That Allow Digital Billboards - Violate Highway Beautification Act

Violate the Highway Beautification Act itself

Violate HBA regulations which prohibit “intermittent” lights

Catastrophic Federal Highway Administration memorandum of September 25 ignores law, regulations, existing research, future research, potential financial liabilities, and common sense

FHWA Memorandum Can Not Be Used To Justify These Billboards

Violates HBA provisions on off-premise signs

Violates regulatory prohibition on signs with “intermittent” lights

Permits signs before FHWA research completed

Ignores NHTSA findings on two-second distraction threshold

Ignores later costs if signs must be altered or removed

Subverts federal rule-making requirements

Aesthetics and Image

Signs become brightest objects in the landscape, dominante and change the fundamental character of the place

Distraction from other visual /scenic qualities

Clash with established architectural elements, even at great distances

500’ or even 1000’ separation from neighborhoods is not enough to prevent light pollution

Environmental Concerns

One digital billboard can consume 397,485 kWh/year*

The carbon footprint of one digital billboard = 49 traditional billboards or 13 homes

One digital billboard = 108 tons/year of carbon dioxide

Legal Risks

Is it legal to ‘lock out’ new entrants via a swap deal?

Unintended consequences due to flaws in the ordinance

Potential to invalidate sign ordinance all together

Industry history of litigation

Other Considerations

Cities usually get no revenue from these signs

Special treatment for one industry using public airspace for their own gain

Negative effect on property values

Enormous compensation costs if signs need to be altered, moved, or removed