1978: Highway Beautification Act co-opted by billboard industry to require cash payment for billboard removal. 2007: FHwA further circumvented the law by allowing digital billboards along federal highways pending a current study
They are Supposed to Distract Drivers Model: AlphaEclipse Excite 35mm The AlphaEclipse Excite 35 is designed to provide the ultimate outdoor advertising experience. The 35mm pitch produces a dominant, outdoor full color, full motion LED digital sign for higher speed roads around town, for highly elevated locations, or for highway installations that cannot be ignored.
Research on Electronic/Video Signs and Traffic Safety
Research Summary Smiley, Univ. of Toronto (2001) –Video signs in direct line of sight are very distracting Wallace (2003) –Signs can distract drivers even if they are watching the road; billboards are distracting in both cluttered and uncluttered areas; exact reason for driver distraction usually goes unreported. Beijer & Smiley, University of Toronto (2004) –Drivers make twice as many and longer glances at video signs Texas Transportation Institute (2005) –Flashing messages are more distracting, less comprehensible, and require more reading time WisDOT/CTC (2006) –Visually complex locations, e.g., intersections, compound the distraction problem
Research Summary continued Non-peer-reviewed, billboard industry funded studies that have been debunked: Tantala, Albert Martin Sr., and Michael Walter Tantala, Tantala Associates “A Study of the Relationship between Digital Billboards and Traffic Safety in Cuyahoga County, Ohio.” July 7. Lee, Suzanne E. et al “Driving Performance and Digital Billboards: Final Report.” Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Center for Automotive Safety Research. March 22. Both studies were paid for by the Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education.
Driver Distraction #1 Cause of Crashes Causal CategoryPercentage of Drivers Contributing to Causation Driver Distraction22.7 Vehicle Speed18.7 Alcohol Impairment18.2 Perceptual Errors15.1 Decision Errors10.1 Incapacitation6.4 Other8.8 Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2001; 2006.
Specific Distraction: % of Drivers Outside person, object or event29.4 Adjusting radio, cassette11.4 Other occupant in vehicle10.9 Moving object in vehicle4.4 Other device in vehicle2.9 Adjusting vehicle/temp2.8 Eating or drinking1.7 Dialing/using cell phone1.5 Smoking0.9 Other distraction25.9 Unknown distraction %
Zeigarnik Effect Potential effects of video signs and EMCs on drivers: Scrolling messages require viewers to concentrate; how long depends on size, resolution, length of the message Sequences of images or messages that tell a story may capture driver’s attention for the duration. Anticipation of a new image appearing may distract driver, who feels compelled to wait for the change. Source: G. Wachtel, The Veridian Group, “Video Signs in Seattle – Final Report.” 2001.
Rationale for Stringent Regulations Basic zoning police power: Protect the public health, safety, morals and general welfare –Health and safety = safe streets, safe driving –Morals = prohibit public display of obscene or offensive language/images or illegal activity –General welfare = community appearance, aesthetics, economics, and property values Practical objective: Address cumulative impacts of a proliferation of digital signs
Sign Code Standards Universal to All Sign Types Sign type Definitions Zoning districts Placement & orientation –Distance from R districts, schools Height Sign area Illumination method Credit: Scenic America
Sign Code Standards Specific to Video/EMC Signs Color –EMCs use amber –video uses ≥ 16 million Text limit (rarely applied) –Number of words, objects Brightness –E.g., 5000 nits daylight; 500 at night Movement – Prohibit flashing, strobing, racing Setbacks –From ROW, lot line, R districts
Sign Code Standards Specific to Video/EMC Signs Operation mode –Static display with lengthy minimum duration Simulated animation (lower tech EMCs) –Video display Spacing –Minimum separation from similar signs Duration –Minimum in seconds, hours, days –Maximum in seconds for a video “story” –One image transition during time sign visible to driver traveling at the operational speed. Audio or pyrotechnics –Don’t even think about it
Code Amendment Checklist Add a list of findings to the ordinance Prohibit this sign type entirely, OR limit them to major commercial districts Limit size; LED portion of on-premise sign face Control placement, orientation, and spacing Limit flashing, animation, or video action Impose minimum & maximum duration of message Require dimmer control, cap allowable brightness “Cap and Trade”
Examples of Findings Signs have a direct impact on and relationship to the image of the community The location, maintenance, manner of installation of signs affects the public health, safety, welfare and aesthetics of the community Businesses and institutions need visibility The safety of motorists, cyclists, pedestrians is affected by signs that divert the attention of drivers Uncontrolled and unlimited signs adversely impact the image and aesthetic attractiveness of the community and thereby undermine economic value and growth Noncommercial opinions must be allowed in any zoning district, subject to reasonable restrictions on size, height, location and number