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Regulatory trend: States adopting lighting standards for digital billboards

Date: July 08, 2015

Keeping pace with new technology, a growing number of states are adopting lighting standards that assure legibility while preventing glare.

Keeping pace with new technology, a growing number of states are adopting lighting standards that assure legibility while preventing glare.

Puerto Rico and 12 states require digital billboards to adjust brightness to surrounding light. In lay terms, when the sun goes down, the brightness of the digital billboard dials down. Digital billboards are equipped with light sensors that adjust brightness, and save energy.

"As digital billboards earn regulatory acceptance, states and localities are finding a balance to advance new technology while safeguarding against excess brightness," said Nancy Fletcher, president and CEO of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

Colorado – the latest state to adopt lighting standards for digital billboards – allows measurement by two commonly accepted metrics:

  • Foot candles measure illuminance, the amount of light coming from a lit object and striking an unlit object at a given distance.
  • Nits measure luminance, the density of light emitted from a lit object.

Colorado's new lighting code is typical: Digital billboards "shall not exceed three-tenths (0.3) foot candles over ambient light." Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Tennessee and Wyoming have adopted the standard to limit brightness to 0.3 foot candles above the surrounding light level.

Arizona, Missouri and West Virginia have the same policy goal, but use different measurement methods. Delaware and Mississippi require adjustment of brightness to surrounding light.

Other states are considering lighting standards for digital billboards.

Colorado's training document sums up the rationale for lighting limits: "Brightness rules are quite possibly the most needed and important aspect to implement when legislating changeable electronic variable message signs.

"An overly bright [digital billboard] not only is a nuisance to the traveling public, but also give the sign industry a black eye. The sign industry, just like regulators, has an interest and a need for appropriate brightness rules."

In 2007, the Federal Highway Administration issued guidance to the states on regulating digital billboards, calling for limits on brightness "in response to changes in light levels."

The OAAA Code of Industry Principles says, "We are committed to ensuring that the ambient light conditions associated with standard-size digital billboards are monitored by a light-sensing device at all times and that display brightness will be appropriately adjusted as ambient light levels change."

Read the full article here.


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