Digital Billboards: Value Added or Villain?

Digital billboards quickly came under attack after showing up on the landscape. A primary criticism of digital billboards is that they are unsafe in that they will distract drivers and cause traffic accidents. That assertion is based on... well, what is it based on? I suppose it is considered another distraction and potential accident source just like eating, applying make-up, or talking on a cell phone (my personal favorite was told to me recently by a friend - he saw someone playing a trumpet while driving). If digital billboards are banned before they gain widespread adoption, there will be one less problem on the roads.

You may want to put the brakes on that assumption. According to a study by Tantala Associates commissioned by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, a study of the relationship between digital billboards and traffic accidents in the Cleveland, Ohio area found no indication that the signs led to more accidents. The study marked the third such effort, with previous studies in Rochester, New York and Cleveland yielding similar results.

Digital billboards offer many advantages over their poster predecessors. Messages can be rotated frequently, changes or additions to messages can be made easily, and they can even prompt immediate action. My wife noticed a digital billboard in Nashville for a country music station. The message included information about the song on the air at that time. Sure enough, a quick check of the radio dial confirmed that the song was playing.

If digital billboards possess advantages over poster billboards, why is there opposition to them? It is likely that it is more of an aesthetics issue than a safety issue. Most opponents may simply not want these big, bright displays being a part of the local landscape. Citing safety concerns may be the cover for the negative image that billboards have long suffered. But, if digital billboards are more attractive (they will not peel or show effects of harsh weather) and potentially more beneficial for advertisers and the community (having the ability to post info on a missing person, for example), let's hope that persons involved making decisions about billboard placement will recognize the value they can add.

Digital Outsider - "Study: DO Billboards Are Safe, Really"

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