Insurance industry concerned about digital billboard safety risks

The current edition of Best’s Review investigates concerns in the insurance industry about the traffic safety risks presented by roadside digital billboards. Best’s Review is a publication of A.M. Best, a rating agency that focuses on the insurance industry.

The feature story comes at a time when the number of digital billboards along the nation’s roadways is increasing rapidly. According to the article there are at least 5,200 digital billboards around the country as of October 2014.

/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/am20best20october20review20screenshot20sm1.jpgA growing number of studies from around the world are showing that digital billboards negatively affect traffic safety. A 2013 study in Sweden led that country to remove its digital billboards, and an ongoing study in Michigan is showing that while the state’s roads are generally getting safer, near digital billboards the number of accidents is going up.

“Certainly any distraction that takes a driver’s eyes off the road is dangerous and can lead to increased crash risk,” said Bill Windsor, vice president of safety for Nationwide Insurance. “And there is, through research, evidence that digital billboards do get drivers’ attention.”

The insurance industry would be “well-thought to conduct studies of its own on whether digital signs are causing accidents, not just for the protection of consumers but also to protect carriers’ own pocketbooks, because they are ultimately the ones paying for this,” added James Ballidis, president of the law firm Allen, Flatt, Ballidis and Leslie.

Insurance experts said after an accident occurs it’s not always easy to determine the reasons for the crash. “In litigation and disputes that surround these cases, it’s easier for a plaintiff’s attorney to just say ‘someone rear-ended my client because they were distracted’ than to try and prove some signage had something to do with it,” Ballidis said.

Scenic America President Mary Tracy was interviewed for the article and she believes that the insurance industry has a role to play in promoting driver safety. “Carriers care about safety and property values, things that are definitely impacted by the proliferation of digital billboards, so they can become an important voice for reasonable policy making in this area,” Tracy said.

Click here to download the Best’s Review article.