Friday, November 13, 2015

Television On A Stick

Photo: alistdaily
I'm a night driver. And one of the things on my driving pet peeve list is digital billboards.

Bright lights in general are a problem - lights from businesses located on the side of the interstates or roadways that shine directly into traffic, construction zones where no workers are present but where they leave the portable light towers on pointing directly into oncoming traffic, other drivers who insist on using their high beams - but nothing bothers me more than digital billboards. Insanely bright, often changing advertisements, sometimes even flashing, they're blinding and distracting.

As a side note, I don't understand businesses that advertise on billboards along the interstate and don't include the local area code with the phone number they're displaying. That's just an annoyance to me, but when I started Googling digital billboards, I found that they've been written about many times.  The New York Times wrote about them in 2010, USA Today in 2013, Huffington Post in 2014, FairWarning in 2015.

Studies have been done - one by the Federal Highway Administration - that said digital billboards don't pose a safety concern and drivers aren't distracted by them. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America was obviously thrilled by those results, but I think it's bullshit.

Studies may not be able to prove they impact safety but I can tell you they are extremely distracting. They cause drivers to take their eyes off the road for longer than is safe, often utilize video and animation, and some of the flashing ads (changing every 6-8 seconds) cause people to look more than once at the same billboard. 
Some of them are SO bright that they alter my night vision, making it hard to see the road and other cars on it just ahead of me.  I try not to look at them when I pass, but some throw so much light, it illuminates the entire roadway. My eyes can't adjust quickly enough.

The Huffington Post article said, "The human eye is hard-wired to look at bright, moving or flashing objects. It's an evolutionary feature that protects all animals from potential threats. When something moves quickly, your eyes automatically look towards it." I agree.

I am so used to scanning the road for deer or other animals when I drive at night, that when I see a flashing brightly-lit billboard, my eyes are instantly drawn to it. It's really bad in metropolitan areas where there can be miles of billboards, brightly lit, some flashing, some flipping, and all vying for attention.

Distracted driving - texting, talking on the phone - gets so much attention these days, as it should, but this highly visible external stimuli which causes drivers to repeatedly look away from the roadway doesn't seem to cause as much of a stir. I believe it's just as dangerous.

I suppose if it were to cause someone to crash, suing the billboard company and/or advertiser is always an option.

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One Last Fling

2013: I Drive With A Soundtrack
2012: Who Doesn’t Love A Sunset?
2011: Personally Yours. But Not Mine.
2010: Sheltered Madonna And Child
2009: Breaking A Leg Doesn’t Always Mean Good Luck
2008: Showing Its True Colors, Even On The Cloudiest Day
2007: Priorities
2006: It’s All In The Cards
2005: A Blond Moment

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