Billboards Endanger Health and Safety

While the industry would like you to think billboards are harmless, their negative effects on our health and our safety have been well documented.

Sign Overload Causes Negative Mental and Physical Effects

In too many places, main commuter roads are cluttered with strip malls, billboards and garish on-premise signs. A recent Texas A&M University study is the first to determine that this type of sprawl contributes to commuter stress. After being subjected to stressful situations, the subjects took simulated commutes along either of two kinds of roads: blighted by billboards, sprawl, and strip development, or unspoiled and rural in character. Stress levels declined quickly for those driving rural roads, but remained high for those exposed to strip developments. Stressed drivers experienced higher blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, and increased eye movements and facial muscle activity.

Billboards Encourage Minors To Abuse Alcohol:

Unlike other advertising media, billboards are an ambush media that can’t be turned off. The billboard industry won’t, however, regulate itself in any meaningful way. What’s more billboards are constantly visible to children. City after city has found most billboards are located in low-income, minority neighborhoods, and that most billboards in those neighborhoods advertise alcohol. A Baltimore, MD, study in the early 1990s revealed that three out of four billboards were located in the city’s minority neighborhoods. Of those billboards, 75 percent advertised alcohol and tobacco products.

Other studies in Chicago, Detroit, Louisville, Atlanta, and elsewhere reveal similar trends. Alcohol and tobacco advertisers are leading users of billboards according to  the most recent Advertising Age figures. Of 1993’s top ten billboard users, eight are tobacco or alcohol companies. In the first quarter of 1995, tobacco was the leading category of products advertised on billboards.

Billboards are a Safety Hazard:

Even the Outdoor Advertising Association of America boasts, “You can’t zap it. You can’t ignore it.”   Billboards are designed to distract motorists’ attention from the road. It’s no surprise that a 1980 Federal Highway Administration study found a positive correlation between billboards and accident rates. Moreover, federal and state courts have long cited traffic safety as a legitimate basis for billboard regulation.