Accidents, Digital Billboards Unrelated, Study Finds

Automobile accidents are unrelated to digital billboards, according to a new study from Tantala Associates, which may serve to allay fears that eye-catching displays distract drivers. Outdoor advertisers are promoting the results, hoping that they may lead to more acceptance and speedier implementation of digital signage systems around the country.

The study surveyed accident frequencies over three years and compared this data with the positions of seven digital billboards in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, where Cleveland is located. Several large Interstate highways pass through Cuyahoga County, including U.S. 90 and U.S. 77, and with about 2.2 million inhabitants, the metropolitan area experiences heavy commuter traffic. The measurement period was divided into two periods of 18 months, before and after the seven billboards were converted from regular to digital displays.

Albert M. Tantala summarized the results of the study: "The analysis and statistics in Cuyahoga County demonstrate that digital billboards have no statistically significant relationship with the occurrence of accidents. Accidents are no more likely to occur near digital billboards than on highway sections without them."



The Tantala study is complemented by a Virginia Tech study of the effects of signs on drivers, which found no substantial changes in behavior patterns in the presence of digital signage. The study, conducted by the Center for Automotive Safety Research at Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute, observed measures like eye-glance patterns, speed maintenance and lane-keeping.

Digital signage is popular with outdoor advertisers, who can use the digital platforms to display multiple ad messages and sell display-time by dayparts corresponding to high- and low-traffic volumes.

However, a number of municipal authorities across the United States has delayed approval for installation or operation of digital signage out of concern that the signs could cause traffic accidents. In 2006, for example, a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul temporarily refused to power Clear Channel's digital displays there, but subsequently relented.

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