Presenter Dr. John Lee of the University of Wisconsin noted that billboards can be a cause of motorist distraction outside of vehicles. Dr. Lee also remarked that while the issue of digital billboard distraction is an active topic of FHWA research, prior studies on the issue have found that they can be a source of distraction.
In fact, the recently completed review of prior studies conducted for AASHTO found:
"...of those research studies that have addressed driver distraction and roadside billboards, nearly every empirical study undertaken since 1995, including that by Lee et al., and sponsored by the outdoor advertising industry, have demonstrated that there is an adverse relationship between distraction and digital billboards."
The bottom line is that a growing and sound body of scientific evidence has confirmed the intuitive notion that digital billboards -- essentially giant televisions on a stick that change ad copy as much as every six seconds -- pose an unnecessary safety risk.
State and local government officials need to protect the public safety and either prohibit or strongly restrict digital signs.