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Digital Billboards Get One Green Light

Date: October 08, 2007

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Digital billboards get one green light
Spokesman Review
By Amy Cannata
October 8, 2007

A new era of highway billboards may have been quietly ushered in by the U.S.
Department of Transportation last month when it issued a memorandum declaring that
digital billboards comply with the Highway Beautification Act.

The guidance memo didn't require public comment or hearings because DOT officials
say it was only intended to clarify whether digital billboards violate the ban on "flashing
and intermittent lights" on billboards contained in the act. Transportation officials decided
digital billboards do not, so now it's up to states to determine whether they will allow
them along interstates and federal highways.

Digital billboards light up with LED lights, often changing images every four to eight
seconds, allowing billboards to better capture people's attention and to advertise more
than one company.

Washington was already looking into whether to allow digital billboards along certain
highways, said Pat O'Leary, the Washington State Department of Transportation's
highway advertising program manager. Many outdoor advertisers are eager to add the
billboards to their inventory, O'Leary said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Transportation is preparing to study whether digital
billboards pose a safety hazard by distracting drivers. That study should be complete by
the end of 2009, said Transportation spokesman Doug Hecox.

It might not be as simple as the billboards being safe or unsafe, said O'Leary. Certain
colors are brighter than others, for instance, so it may be a matter of setting up
acceptable parameters for the billboards' use.

Washington is looking into such issues and will be interested in the federal safety study,
he said.

 

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