Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Digital Driver Distraction

Scenic America applauds the Distracted Driver Summit, convened by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, for its inclusion of the safety concerns of digital billboards.

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."

(link to pdf of study here.)

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.


  1. The next thing they will add to their list is outlawing video screens/scoreboards at stadiums because someone could be distracted and fall as the walk up or down the steps. If electronic signs are so dangerous why does the highway dept use them on trailers in construction zones as a safety device and warning system to slow down or change lanes?

  2. The language quoted included "an adverse relatinship". Is this accurate? Or should it read an "inverse relationship"? Either way, it seems that you have misunderstood the research. These statements mean that there is NOT a relationship between signs and accidents.

  3. There are NO studies that have shown that there is a relationship between traffic accidents and digital signs. Let's stop jumping to conclusions without the facts !!

  4. Not once in 15 years of working in the sign industry have I heard of a accident caused by a digital sign.

    More accidents have been caused by people putting on makeup or eating in there car than any digital sign.

  5. Despite your "15 years of experience", it's clear from your first post that you are biased and your points are baseless. Digital DOT signs are on the ROW- within the viewing angle of the driver- not drawing your eyes off to private property and to complex messages. DOT messages are concise and consist of essential motorist information that drivers need. Sometimes DOT's are pressured to put PSA's on the messages (buckle up). I don't agree with that. These should be reserved for higher priority messages.

  6. Very thoughtfull post on The Scenic America Blog . It should be very much helpfull.

    I have used the AV Planners Inc for all "digital signs" and their serivice is the best.You can know more about them in "".

    peter - digital signs

  7. Anonymous,
    you are mistaken in your comments about what the research shows about the safety of digital signs. I encourage you to read the AASHTO report yourself. A link has been added.