In case critics didn’t notice the first two studies that show digital billboards are “safety neutral,” a third survey was released this week. Conducted by Philadelphia-based Tantala Associates, the study is the largest survey of digital-billboard traffic safety yet conducted.
Tantala analyzed eight years of traffic accident data — more than 60,000 accident reports from the Ohio Department of Transportation — for the same seven digital billboards it examined in a 2007 study. In addition to the two Cleveland studies, a separate survey was released earlier this year for Rochester, Minn. The conclusion for all three studies was the same: Digital billboards are not linked to traffic accidents.
The Foundation for Outdoor Advertising commissioned the studies, in part, to reassure local governments that accepting digital boards in their cities and towns would not pose a safety hazard. Neither age of the driver nor the time of day played a factor.
Digital billboards have been a boon to outdoor companies such as Clear Channel Outdoor and Lamar Advertising because of the firms’ ability to sell multiple ads in the same space (messages change every 8 seconds). Lamar’s 1,135 digital billboards, now representing about 10 percent of the company’s revenue, are leading the recovery at the company.
According to PQ Media, digital billboards are the fastest growing of all digital out-of-home segments, forecast to grow 13.2 percent to $568 million in 2010.
Along with the revenue benefits, the outdoor boards are also performing a public service, used regularly for Amber alerts, weather info and other public service announcements.