Are Digital Billboards Distracting Drivers?

By Adam Tuss and News4 Transportation Reporter
|  Friday, Jan 4, 2013  |  Updated 4:44 PM EDT
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Are Digital Billboards Distracting Drivers?

Digital billboards, like these in Chinatown, take drivers' attention away from the road for more than the two seconds that has been shown to increase the risk of a crash, a new study shows.

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Could digital billboards - like the ones posted near the Verizon Center in Chinatown - distract drivers?

Possibly, says a new study in the trade journal Traffic Injury Prevention. That study says digital billboards can take your eyes off the road for longer than 2 seconds, reports News4 Transportation Reporter Adam Tuss.

And, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety administration study, anything that takes your eyes off the road for that amount of time that increases the risk of crashes.

The signs at 7th and H streets in Chinatown play what look like television commercials, with video and elaborate graphics.

"I have driven through this intersection many times," driver Katherine Denzel told Tuss. "You are distracted by all the lights and the screens."

"Maybe they could relocate them, put them somewhere else," said Everette Emery.

The owner of these billboards, Orange Barrel Media, sent News4 this statement: "In our personal experience, as the owners of multiple digital signs, there is not a single instance of a traffic accident caused by one of our signs, including the ones at 7th and H."

And there are people here who agree, these signs are fine for drivers.

"I think there's so much going on here that [drivers] really should be paying attention anyway, " said Drew Grossman. 

"You stop at an intersection, you see what's up on the screen - you are cool," said Kilo Harrison. "But when that light turns green, then get back to work."

DDOT tells News 4 it is currently working on revisions to sign regulations and digital billboards and how the signs affect traffic safety could be addressed.

Meanwhile, the drivers' group AAA says it's strongly against these types of digital billboards, and recently stopped a proposal to build a digital billboard along the highway in Philadelphia.
 

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