St. Augustine Digital Billboards Bringing More Danger to the Road?

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Safety on the road is becoming a concern, and St. Johns County commissioners think they might have at least a partial solution in digital billboards. But the issue is becoming a hot topic as both sides weigh in on the debate.

The digital billboard debate is slowly gaining traction in St. Johns County, according to a St. Augustine Record update. Arguments exist on both sides, as commissioners, the industry, and law enforcement promise good things, but some residents and the science paints a cautionary tale.

Digital Billboards Could Be Helpful

Support for digital billboards doesn’t just come from the billboard industry. One commissioner told the Record government agencies could use the billboards “to transmit public service announcements and emergency notices,” helping motorists avoid accidents or natural disaster. The billboards present new opportunities to broadcast information, possibly making roads safer.

Their main purpose is still advertising, of course. The content of the boards could concern some, but some St. Johns commissioners don’t seem worried.

Terms of the deal would prevent billboards from having animation, flashing, or moving objects, limiting their distractibility. Sign brightness, separation from one another, and other structures would also be managed, according to the county commissioners.

The very successful swap program would stay, too. For every new traditional or digital billboard, four or five old ones must be removed. The county estimates in the last fifteen years the number of active billboards has almost halved, from 579 to 301. Multiple messages might be digital billboards’ best aspect, letting the industry advertise more with fewer signs.

Commissioners, the industry, and law enforcement present convincing arguments, but some residents still disagree, and not all the research adds up.

There Are Some Concerns

Residents aren’t sold on the idea, according to the Record. One argues simply that the “‘singular purpose’ of a digital billboard is to distract motorists with its message.” The resident mentioned billboards are an eyesore, too.

Plus, scientific information is mixed. The Federal Highway Administration conducted a study that found drivers were more likely to gaze at the digital billboards, but ultimately concluded no type of billboard decreased overall attention to the roadway.

The report was challenged by The Veridian Group, a consulting firm that published a review of several traffic studies and found that the best digital billboards were ones that most attracted the attention of the motorist, possibly decreasing safety on streets and highways.

Veridian’s idea is that a billboard that doesn’t catch your attention might not be a great investment.

A former commissioner went even further, suggesting billboard companies are deceiving, and will tell commissioners the new boards are safe, while telling advertisers they attract more eyes, according to reports.

The drawbacks might look high to some, but commissioners could move forward anyway. The next hearing is on Dec. 1.

Billboard or Not

There are still questions about digital billboards and road safety, but danger on the road is common. Streets are more perilous than ever as the age of tech at our fingertips changes driving.

An accident can be an alarming time, billboard or not. Our car accident attorneys in St. Augustine have the knowledge to help you understand your situation. Or, feel free to fill out our risk-free case evaluation form if you’re ready now.

By Staff

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