Digital Ads on Freeways: The Latest Bad Idea

Digital Billboard Ads could be coming to California Freeways if a bill now before the State Senate becomes law. The above picture came from a Caltrans report favoring the idea that was released on April 16. Caltrans has teamed up with a couple of select billboard companies to actually propose this ugly and dangerous idea as a means to raise money by selling ads on highway roadside official signs.

 This is what the ads would look like. Alongside the usual traffic notices, or even mileage distances, we would get changing digital advertising alongside Caltrans controlled freeways. The proposal so far is for a pilot project, but even this idea should be shot down before it gets any further. Caltrans justifies the trial by pointing to the FHWA study which allegedly found that digital billboards are safe. But we all know that that study was never properly peer-reviewed, is flawed, and is outdated because of the increasing in-cockpit driver distractions that come from on-board touch screens, direction finders, and cell phones.

More recent 2015 studies have found that digital billboards resulted in 25% to 29% higher crash rates near such signs in two states, Alabama and Florida. So Caltrans and the billboard companies are deliberately putting drivers and passengers in danger with this proposal.

Caltrans does not even need the money. The state budget has been in surplus for several years, even while the rainy day fund increases.

And California drivers do not need the distraction, danger, and mere ugliness of more ads.

What to do: The legislation is AB 1405, The Advanced Digital Network Act. Right now it’s before the State Senate Transportation and Housing Committee, chaired by Jim Beall. Send letters via e-mail to the committee via the secretary Katie Bonin: katie.bonin@sen.ca.gov or fax to 916-445-2209.

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