Digital Billboard Safety Studies

Scenic America receives many inquiries regarding the safety and aesthetic impacts of digital billboards. We encourage you to explore the following links. Please contact us if you need further assistance.

Compendium of Recent Research Studies on Distraction from Commercial Electronic Variable Message Signs
A comprehensive review of many studies on the impacts of digital signs upon driver safety by noted human factors expert Jerry Wachtel of the Veridian Group. (Updated October 2020) 

Seattle Coordinated Street Furniture Program: Human Factors Considerations

A review, completed by Jerry Wachtel of the Veridian Group, of a proposal to install digital kiosks on Seattle sidewalks. The report advised that digital ads in this form pose a safety risk similar to that of large digital billboards. (2017)

Assessment and Strategies to Reduce Light Pollution Using Geographic Information Systems
A general overview of the problem of light pollution and how to measure it. (2016) 

Light pollution disrupts sleep in free-living animals 
Nature, 2015

Timing of light exposure affects mood and brain circuits
Nature, 2017 

23 U.S. Code § 131 – Control of outdoor advertising 

Beyond Aesthetics
A major research report on the negative impacts of billboards upon property values in Philadelphia.

Kansas City digital billboard exchange program 
A February 2020 news article that describes the digital billboard exchange program used in Kansas City.

An amendment to the Dallas digital billboard code for the billboard exchange program used there (2011). 

Illuminating the Issues
A 2010 r
eport on digital signs, energy consumption, and brightness 

Effects of Electronic Billboards on Driver Distraction
A 2012 study involving digital billboards and driver safety conducted by the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute. The study found that drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than they did at other signs on the same stretch of road, with the digital signs often taking a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds.  Click here for more information on this study.

Critical Review of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s Digital Billboard Safety Studies
July 2007 saw the release of two industry-sponsored studies that concluded that digital billboards are no more likely to cause traffic accidents than conventional billboards. The billboard industry has since cited the studies numerous times as evidence that the proliferation of digital billboards poses no safety threat to the motoring public. This objective, expert analysis of the studies was prepared for the Maryland State Highway Administration by Jerry Wachtel, a highly regarded traffic safety expert. His report is extremely critical of the conclusions and methodology of both studies and effectively debunks them.

The Impact of Driver Inattention on Near-Crash/Crash Risk: An Analysis Using the 100-Car Naturalistic Driving Study Data
April 2006, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation
A major study of driver inattention, primarily involving distractions inside the car, but finding that any distraction of over two seconds is a potential cause of crashes and near-crashes.

Research Review of Potential Safety Effects of Electronic Billboards on Driver Attention and Distraction
September 2001, Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation

Milwaukee County Stadium Variable Message Sign Study: Impacts of an Advertising Variable Message Sign on Freeway Traffic
December 1994, Wisconsin Department of Transportation
Study of the dangers posed by an electronic sign in Milwaukee, which concluded that “it is obvious that the variable message sign has had an effect on traffic, most notably in the increase of sideswipe crash rate.”

Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, No. 1937, 2005
A study of electronic signs in Toronto, which finds that “On the basis of the eye-fixation study and the pubic survey data, it is apparent that video advertising can distract drivers inappropriately and lead to individual crashes,” but calls for additional research due to other conflicting data.
A 2018 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration summarizing the dangers created by distracted driving.