Digital Billboards


Issue:
The Federal Highway Administration has allowed changeable message billboards since 1996, as long as state and local regulations permit them. Adapting to technology and advertisers’ demands, many billboard companies have replaced some traditional outdoor billboards with LED-based digital billboards, which display many advertisements over the course of a day, usually for a few seconds at a time. Additionally, the billboards are relied on for important real-time announcements, such as traffic alerts or missing children information.

AAF Position:
The AAF believes that digital billboards are an important source of information for motorists, as well as an important medium for many local businesses, which are able to purchase targeted display time for a few days or even a few hours. We support self-regulatory industry standards designed to ensure digital billboards are not distracting, including prohibiting any moving text or images in the ads. We are opposed to moratoriums on digital billboard installations, as such restrictions are unnecessary government intervention on an emerging technology.

Opposition:
Critics of digital billboards say that the advertising is too distracting to drivers and will cause an increase in the number of vehicle crashes. Two recent studies conducted by the Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research & Education refute these critics, showing no change in the number of accidents after traditional billboards were replaced by digital billboards and finding that drivers generally look at digital displays for less than a second, which is no different than static ads. Others find billboards aesthetically unpleasing and seek removal of all outdoor advertising.

Status:
Many local governments have specifically approved the use of digital billboards within their jurisdictions, while many others have specifically banned or imposed moratoriums on them.

In early 2007, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued a report concluding that there was no evidence of increased hazard caused by digital billboards. The Federal Highway Administration is conducting its own study on the effect of digital billboards on drivers and will release results before 2009.

Last updated: October 2008

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