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Are electronic billboards distracting drivers?

Posted by Saul Steinberg | Jan 26, 2017 | 0 Comments

As you made your way along the New Jersey Turnpike, or on any other major artery across the nation over the last several years, chances are good that you've noticed more and more digital billboards dotting the roadside.

Indeed, statistics from the Outdoor Advertising Association of America indicate that of the 400,000-plus billboards in the U.S., anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 are now digital with hundreds more being added every year. As lucrative as these relatively new advertising mediums have proven — cycling through a preset number of promotions roughly every eight seconds — there are some questioning whether they present a dangerous distraction to motorists.

Several townships here in New Jersey have actually fought against the introduction of digital billboards within their limits, with local government and law enforcement officials saying they pose a safety risk and something of an eyesore. Indeed, Mount Olive is currently embroiled in just such a controversy.

All this naturally begs the question as to whether digital billboards are distracting to motorists.

Curiously enough, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Highway Administration examined this very issue in a 2014 study, finding that while digital billboards are distracting to motorists, they are not actually dangerous.

Specifically, the FHWA outfitted the vehicles of a group of test participants with equipment designed to measure their eye and head movement in relation to traditional and digital billboards.

They found that while the glance duration for traditional billboards was 0.335 seconds, the glance duration for digital billboards was 0.379 seconds, putting both measurements well below the hazardous benchmark standard of two seconds.

As definitive as this would seem, opponents of digital billboards, which one group calls “huge TVs on-a-stick,” point to another body of research by the Swedish National Road and Transport Administration, which found that digital billboards actually diverted motorists' attention from the road for well over two seconds.

Regardless of which body of research is to be believed, the simple fact is that the number of digital billboards in New Jersey is only going to explode in the years ahead. Indeed, those municipalities looking to prevent their arrival will likely find difficulty mounting any sort of legal challenge, as the state court system has shown itself amendable only to the establishment of standards, not blanket bans.

What are your thoughts? Do you think digital billboards are distracting?

If you've been seriously injured or lost a loved one in a motor vehicle crash caused by a distracted driver, consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who explain the law, outline your options and help you pursue justice.

About the Author

Saul Steinberg

Saul J. Steinberg was born and raised in Camden, NJ. He has practiced in Camden County since first being admitted to the bar. Since 1990, he has also handled cases in Southeastern Pennsylvania.The emphasis of Saul's practice is in Criminal and Civil litigation. He has handled major criminal and c...


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