High-Tech Billboards–A Roadway Safety Risk?
Some highway safety advocates claim that digital highway billboards constitute “weapons of mass distraction” as potentially dangerous as cell conversations or mobile texting.
According to a recent article published in The New York Times, “These high-tech billboards marry the glow of Times Square with the immediacy of the Internet. Images change every six to eight seconds, so advertisers can flash timely messages — like the latest headlines, coffee deals at dawn, a cheeseburger at lunchtime or even the song playing on a radio station at that moment. The billboard industry asserts there is no research indicating they cause crashes, and notes that the signs do not use video or animation.”
Last year’s Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study on mobile texting focused the nation’s attention on distracted driving. Yet the Times notes that an earlier Virginia Tech study, in 2007, apparently found that digital billboards and ordinary billboards had about the same effect on motorist behavior. The lead researcher in the study now says, however, that further investigation is necessary to reach a more definitive conclusion. In the meantime, lawmakers in Michigan and Minnesota are considering temporary bans on new digital billboards.
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