Digital Billboards 'Weapons of Mass Distraction': Foes

Industry says they're not 'TV on a stick' but a simple 'slide show'
By Harry Kimball,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 2, 2010 11:25 AM CST
Digital Billboards 'Weapons of Mass Distraction': Foes
A digital billboard at the corner of East Eldorado Street and North Martin Luther King, Jr., Drive is seen with the message "follow ashton kutcher" Friday, April 17, 2009, in Decatur, Ill.   (AP Photo)

Digital highway billboards can change their display every few seconds, serving multiple advertisers and even aiding law enforcement in finding fugitives and missing children—which is terribly unsafe, critics argue. The “television on a stick” is dangerously distracting to drivers, they say. “The billboard gets your attention whether you want to give it or not,” an advocate working to outlaw them tells the New York Times.

The Federal Highway Administration is looking into the matter by monitoring subjects with in-car cameras to see how distracted they actually are by the billboards. The agency has long outlawed displays with “flashing,” “intermittent,” or “moving” lights, but 2 years ago ruled that the new boards are OK. Which is as it should be, an industry exec says. “It’s a slide projector.” Sure, it’s good for business, but “we wouldn’t want to cause danger.” (More digital billboard stories.)

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