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Don't destroy Washington State

Digital Billboards

This excellent Scenic America's Brochure is organized to help you sort through all of the issues and considerations. Digital Billboards are an extremely complex issue and this piece can equip you with a solid foundation for meetings and give you a basis to fully understand various governmental, citizen and industry arguments on this issue.

Digital Billboards are Energy Hogs

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

Environmental Facts

  • 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

Are Digital Signs Safe?

Flawed Industry Sponsored Studies Don't Prove Safety

Click here to view the facts: A Critical, Comprehensive Review of Two Industry Studies Recently Released

Highway Safety Considerations

  • 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.

  • 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

Big Business Has Big Studies - Big Surprise

Another common ploy 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

WHY are Billboard Companies in a Hurry?

Studies ARE coming

Federal Highway Administration has a multiple phase safety study underway, the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is sponsoring preliminary research leading to future investigations and the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences is conducting a human-factors workshop and will manage AASHTO research.

Our Cities and Counties 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?

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

Legal Risks

  • Is it legal to ‘lock out’ new entrants via a "deal" with one company?

  • Unintended consequences due to flaws in the ordinance

  • Potential to invalidate sign ordinance all together

  • Industry history of litigation

Other Considerations

  • Cities/Counties/States 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