Many Americans believe that digital billboards are helpful to drivers and oppose current efforts to ban them, according to a new survey from the Opinion Research Corporation and Strategy One conducted in late August.
Despite the controversy, 80% of survey respondents said they believe roadside digital displays targeting drivers are useful for disseminating important information, including traffic advisories, road conditions and emergency information. Sixty-three percent also found them useful for learning about local attractions, lodging options and restaurants. These percentages were higher among younger respondents. Meanwhile, 76% of all respondents disagreed with efforts to ban billboards.
Nancy Fletcher, president and CEO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, issued a pointed statement regarding the findings, noting that members of the public "understand, sometimes even better than politicians and regulators, when something is good for their communities and their businesses. Clearly, they agree digital billboards are good."
OAAA emphasized that it had no input or influence over the survey or how it was conducted.
The ORC/SA survey comes on the heels of a series of studies suggesting that digital billboards don't cause traffic accidents, as opponents often allege. In August, Tantala Associates released the results of a study examining eight years of law enforcement records documenting traffic accidents on state and local roads around Reading, Pennsylvania.
Tantala examined data including location, time of day, and the direction and speed of the vehicles involved in each accident, including accidents on stretches of road where digital billboards are visible, as well as accidents elsewhere. It found no statistical correlation between accidents and visual exposure to digital billboards, by day or night.
Previously, Tantala performed similar studies analyzing accident data from Cleveland, Ohio, Rochester, Minnesota, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, all of which yielded the same conclusion.
In Cleveland, Tantala reviewed police records for 60,000 traffic accidents taking place in the county over an eight-year period, comparing accident rates from a four-year period before digital billboards were installed with the four-year period following their installation.
In Rochester, Tantala reviewed police records documenting 18,000 traffic accidents that took place within a mile of digital billboards over a five-year period, and in Albuquerque, it reviewed police records documenting traffic accidents that took place within a mile of 17 digital billboards over a seven-year period.
All three studies showed no statistical correlation between digital billboards and accidents.
Around the same time as the first Tantala study, Virginia Tech completed a survey about the effects of signs on drivers. Conducted by the Center for Automotive Safety Research at Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute, the study observed measures like eye-glance patterns, speed maintenance and lane-keeping, and found no substantial changes in behavior patterns in the presence of digital signage.