Digital billboards may be a safety concern

    City planners and marketers met today to discuss the future of digital billboards.

    City planners and marketers met today to discuss the future of digital billboards. Advertising signs whose messages light up and move are designed to catch your eye in ways simple billboards never could. The trend worries some people.

    Listen:
    [audio: 091204pcsign.mp3]

    Digital billboards can be programmed to change their messages every 6 seconds, which adds up to lots of ads and potentially distracted drivers.

    A lawyer for the Philadelphia signage activist group SCRUB says most cities do not have a comprehensive ordinance governing signage because regulating wattage, location, and messaging gets very complicated. Engineering psychologist Jerry Wachtel says throwing drivers into the mix makes signs dangerous.

    Wachtel: If you control brightness of signs and the frequency with which the message changes – so driver isn’t caught looking at endless change, then there should be no adverse safety impact of these signs.

    Some cities – like New York and Las Vegas – have designated certain areas for digital signs. In Philadelphia, SCRUB is concerned about the newly refurbished lights atop the PECO building, where about 1 million LED pixels scroll messages.

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