If you can read this billboard, you’re being unsafe

I have been hearing about the legislature voting to allow lots of digital billboards on the interstate highway. I am a ninth-grade student, 15 years old, and I have seen some of these signs and I don't like them. They are dangerous for anyone trying to read them while they are driving.

Many people are saying that the signs destroy the beauty of our interstate. I think they should be worrying about how many people will die because of them. I hope our lawmakers will use some common sense and not pass this bill.

— Cory Wilde
Leicester

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19 thoughts on “If you can read this billboard, you’re being unsafe

  1. travelah

    Cory, It is good to see a student take a strong interest in these things. Were you able to find out if anybody has been killed because of these distractions? They are in use in several communities across the country.

  2. Dionysis

    One of the rare times I agree with travelah in echoing appreciation for a young person taking a serious interest in this topic.

    A 2006 study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that driver distraction was a factor in 8 of 10 accidents, even when the driver’s eye was distracted by one or two seconds. While there is not hard data linking digital billboards per se to accidents, a two second distraction “more than doubles the risk of a crash or near crash.”

    All billboards are designed to distract the driver from the task of driving in order to look at the billboard message; digital billboards, by their very technology, do so more readily with flashing graphics, moving text, etc. As a recent article by the American Planning Association noted, “billboards are the only roadside objects that are both intentionally distracting and irrelevant to the task at hand.” This is why numerous municipalities as well as at least 11 states have banned digital billboards.

    You are right to be concerned, both from a potential safety perspective as well as from an aesthetic perspective. And you are to be commended for being concerned.

    http://www.planning.org/planning/open/mar/digitalbillboards.htm

  3. TallPaul

    ” They are dangerous for anyone trying to read them while they are driving.”

    Then don’t. Don’t you know that you’re supposed to watch the ROAD?

  4. Dionysis

    “Then don’t. Don’t you know that you’re supposed to watch the ROAD?”

    The letter writer is a 15 year old 9th grader, so your advice to him seems misplaced. However, it would be a message that should be directed at those advertisers who pay significant money to erect these billboards under the assumption that drivers WILL take their eyes off the road, long enough to read their messages.

  5. TallPaul

    If he’s a ninth grader, perhaps he shouldn’t presume to lecture adults on driver safety.

    Perhaps neither one of you should assume that the only people who see the signs are driving. Ever hear of passengers?

    What’s next? Cut down all the trees, so that drivers can’t be distracted by fall colors?

  6. Dionysis

    “If he’s a ninth grader, perhaps he shouldn’t presume to lecture adults on driver safety.”

    If he was a passenger in a car that wrecked because the driver was distracted by digital signs, he could end up just as dead as the driver. He has every right to express his opinion. And if you read the letter, it’s clear it is directed at lawmakers.

    “Perhaps neither one of you should assume that the only people who see the signs are driving. Ever hear of passengers?”

    I guess this must make sense to you; how many passengers control the operation of a motor vehicle? What does it matter is a passenger is “seeing the signs?” The risk is with the driver’s inattention to the road.

    “What’s next? Cut down all the trees, so that drivers can’t be distracted by fall colors”

    If you can demonstrate a connection between gazing at fall leaf colors and wrecks, you might have a point. Let’s see what you can offer to that effect.

  7. TallPaul

    “If you can demonstrate a connection between gazing at fall leaf colors and wrecks, you might have a point. Let’s see what you can offer to that effect.”

    Right after you demonstrate a link between gazing at billboards of any sort and wrecks.

    You and the letter writer appear to assume that no one can drive by such a billboard without being mesmerized by it. You might have that problem, but please do not assume that all of us are.

  8. Dionysis

    “Right after you demonstrate a link between gazing at billboards of any sort and wrecks.”

    Take a few minutes and click on the link provided in an earlier post to the study done by the NTSHA (or do your own search); there is about as much of a solid link as is needed by legislatures to have banned these things in 11 states and countless municipalities. Now, what can you offer?

    “You and the letter writer appear to assume that no one can drive by such a billboard without being mesmerized by it. You might have that problem, but please do not assume that all of us are.”

    Believe it or not, this isn’t about you (or me), or any one specific driver (the extraneous point that any one person may not be “mesmerized” by a sign is irrelevant). It’s about a observant young person who expresses his view on a matter he finds important, only to be told “watch the road.” And any assumptions are mirrored by not only objective studies, but common sense (which it seems, not everyone possesses).

    The ultimate point is that given distractions DO IN FACT lead to wrecks, and given the fact that all billboards, and digital ones most effectively, DIVERT ATTENTION BY DESIGN AND CAUSE DISTRACTIONS, it is puzzling why you seem to be so intent on defending them.

    Maybe the legislature should modify the state’s driving rules and regulations to forbid the observation of billboards by drivers, but exempting passengers. Now that should work.

    Perhaps you have stock in a company that makes and sells them, or perhaps you’re just a malcontent who enjoys slamming kids and others just for chuckles. Who knows, and who cares?

  9. TallPaul

    “Maybe the legislature should modify the state’s driving rules and regulations to forbid the observation of billboards by drivers, but exempting passengers. Now that should work.”

    Yeah… that makes lots of sense. No more sense than banning something because some drivers might be distracted by it.

    Let’s ban electric razors, lipstick, and eye makeup, because some people are distracted by choosing to use them while driving. Let’s ban fast food, because some people are unduly distracted when they eat while driving.

    Let’s ban all distractions, like bumper stickers, attractive vehicles, and pretty women driving cars down the freeway.

    If these things are so dangerous, how does traffic manage to keep moving on I-26?

    I have driven by these things, and somehow manage to keep my eyes on the road. Apparently thousands of other manage this same amazing feat every day.

    I have no connection to any sign company. I’m just a citizen who is sick and tired of progressives enlarging the power of the nanny state in an attempt to legislate all of the risk out of life. I’m sick and tired of the law dumbing life down to make it safe for the least capable among us, by limiting the choices of ALL of us.

  10. Dionysis

    “I’m sick and tired of the law dumbing life down to make it safe for the least capable among us, by limiting the choices of ALL of us”

    That’s your opinion, fine. Since you seem to be unwilling to quit harping on this rather insignificant issue (a student expressing concern over what is unarguably a driving risk benefitting commercial enterprises), the you are free to write a letter-to-the-editor extolling the virtues of digital signs and chastising others who do not share your view. Go for it.

  11. TallPaul

    Did you read your own citation? I did, and found this:

    “Is it possible to erect and operate a digital billboard consonant with traffic safety? Our research suggests that the answer is yes.”

    Now, have you any evidence that the billboards we’ve been talking about violate the guidelines for safety detailed in your citation?

  12. Dionysis

    Sigh. Running it into the ground, aren’t you? Okay, my last post on this topic:

    “Did you read your own citation? I did, and found this:

    “Is it possible to erect and operate a digital billboard consonant with traffic safety? Our research suggests that the answer is yes.”

    Yes, I did read that; notice the qualifying “our research suggests…” Some research may suggest that the Mafia and CIA killed Kennedy; some research “suggests” that aliens are mutilating cows and on and on. Is this supposed to be important? It does not say “electronic billboards have been proven to be completely safe.”

    “Now, have you any evidence that the billboards we’ve been talking about violate the guidelines for safety detailed in your citation?”

    Once again…studies conclude that driver distractions are a factor in 8 of 10 wrecks or near wrecks. Digital billboards are by design built and erected to distract drivers (okay, and passengers too but they aren’t driving); they also tend to be located in places where driver attention is most critical, such as busy intersections. If you still fail to see the connection, then you have a chance to give a 9th grader a summer job connecting the dots for you.

    Cheers.

  13. TallPaul

    In other words, you support your citation as long as it agrees with you.

    It is clear that you cannot provide any evidence that digital billboards in the area are creating a hazard.

    Please name *one* “busy intersection” in the area with a digital billboard.

  14. TallPaul

    Running it into the ground?

    I’m sure you’d prefer that I just run away after your first post. Try again.

  15. Dionysis

    “Running it into the ground?

    I’m sure you’d prefer that I just run away after your first post. Try again.”

    You seem to be one of those types who are bound and determined to get the last word (or in this case, post) in, in spite of the fact that you offer nothing but illogical, convoluted gibberish, and seem to have an inherent inability to comprehend not only what the letter-writer actually wrote, but simple logic and deduction.

    As for the notion that I’d have preferred you to “run away,” it would have been preferably to engage in a debate with someone who didn’t dodge and weave, and who had the ability to deal with facts and reality in an objective way. Having to repeatedly explain a basic concept, which you either choose to ignore or lack the ability to comprehend, is frustrating. So, in that context, if running away would have saved wasted time and energy, then perhaps so.

    Now, about that summer job for some 15 year old…they need more employment opportunities, and you clearly need the help. And you wouldn’t even have to pay minimum wage!

  16. TallPaul

    I see… anything that Dionysis disagrees with is “illogical, convoluted gibberish”.

    I fail to see how the moderators allow you toppost such things, unless they are not reading the thread and are just looking at individual posts.

    Dodging and weaving? You failed address a single of my questions or challenges in any substantial way. You will also note that I somehow managed to post them without being personally insulting. You should try it.

    Basic concepts are nice. The world, however, runs on reality. That reality was the basis for the challenges and questions that you have chosen to ignore.

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