Together We Can Use Research And Common Sense To Help Protect Millcreek Residents & Visitors

Anybody who has tried to turn left out of the Crown Burger parking lot (we love Crown Burger, btw) knows the section of Highland Drive from 3300 South to the traffic light at Miller Avenue is a very busy stretch with at least 10 different roads or business entrances that connect to Highland Drive, plus a multi-use lane drivers use to turn across traffic, plus two northbound lanes that merge into one lane. Yet, since 2021 Reagan and Mayor Silvestrini's staff have been intent on installing a large Reagan Outdoor Advertising digital billboard just south of Crown Burger and also one across from Harmon's off 1300 East that switches out advertisements every 8 seconds, 24 hours a day, 364 days a year, come rain or shine or day or night, for the next the 40 years. We have to wonder why this is the case.

Installing and operating any additional digital billboards in Millcreek's already very busy City Center (i.e. Millcreek Common) would obviously go against public safety because digital billboards are designed to grab your attention and distract a driver's eyes and thoughts away from the road more effectively and for longer than static billboards. The last thing we need in this very dynamic traffic area is drivers that are distracted by a digital billboard and who are then more likely to collide with another car, motorcyclist, bicyclist, or pedestrian.

Help us ensure no additional digital billboards are built at Millcreek City Center by asking city leaders reverse its recent adoption of a substitute sign code that, among other things, allows for another digital billboards to be installed at Millcreek City Center. Ask city council to request a 6 month interim study period to allow time to get and consider updated traffic data and and a site-specific pedestrian/traffic safety impact assessment of installing a distracting digital billboard on this already very busy area of Millcreek. Ask them to SLOW DOWN and take time to collaboratively look for creative ways to mark the west entrance of Millcreek Common, get out the word about Venture Out! and other city-sponsored events and get rid of soon-to-be-obsolete static billboards that don't present a public safety hazard.

Reagan Outdoor Advertising and city leaders pushing for more digital billboards in Millcreek seem unwilling to acknowledge the negative impact digital billboards have on public safety. Yet, it is obvious a digital billboard that has advertisements resulting in a recall rate of over 80% and switch out every 8 seconds distracts drivers and places at increased risk of harm the same people the digital billboard is targeting.

Reagan Outdoor Advertising, ROA lobbyists and those Millcreek staff and city council members supporting yet another digital billboard at Millcreek Common should be respectfully reminded they are doing so at the expense of public safety. We think unnecessarily placing Millcreek residents and visitors traveling around Millcreek City Center by car, motorcycle, bicycle, scooter, stroller, paw & foot at an increased risk of a traffic/pedestrian/cyclist accident is the opposite of sound public policy and also flat-out unneighborly.


  • Compendium of Recent Research Studies on Distraction from Commercial Electronic Variable Message Signs (2016, updated October 2020) This is an extensive review of published studies on the impact of digital billboards and other signs on driver safety commissioned prepared for the Legal Division of The California State Department of Transportation. According to the head researcher, digital billboards clearly catch the eye of passing motorists. But what is also increasingly clear is that such distractions can heighten safety risks in heavy traffic and other complex driving conditions. Click HERE and HERE to read summaries of the 2016 version.

  • Roadside Digital Billboard Advertisements: Effects of static, transitioning and animated designs on drivers' performance and attention (2021) A total of 100 students participated in a controlled driving simulator experiment in an urban environment. Measures of driving performance were collected, as well as eye tracking and EEG as windows into attention allocation. The different types of billboards investigated were static, digital billboards that switch out advertisements several times a minute, and digital billboards with short videos. The results show that driving performance and attention to the road were both more negatively affected when drivers were exposed digital billboards compared to static digital billboards.

  • Can Behavioral Interventions be too salient? Evidence from traffic safety messages (Science, April 22, 2022)
    Ironically, a 2022 Texas study showed that the number of crashes actually slightly increases when drivers are confronted with digital displays on the highway indicating the number of road fatalities in the area. The authors suggest that the findings result from the drivers having "cognitive overload" when confronted with multiple notices and instructions on complex stretches of road, leading to distraction. Although this study was confined to highways, the findings are nonetheless sobering when considering the safety implications of permitting Reagan Outdoor Advertising to target cyclists, motorcycle riders and drivers on the complex stretch of Highland Drive just east of Millcreek City Center with a large digital billboard screen timed to display its advertisements every 8 seconds, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year for the next 40 years as Millcreek City leaders are currently proposing.

  • Are Digital Billboards Dangerously Distracting? Association for Psychological Science ( May 4, 2016) Researchers from New England University Transportation Center & MIT AgeLab published a paper in Accident Analysis and Prevention in which psychological researcher Daniel Belyusar explained that the flashing lights in ad-rotating digital billboards may be enough to evoke “obligatory shifts of covert visual attention” due to automatic, sensory reactions that take less than 100 milliseconds. The researchers stated that “Since drivers might find it difficult to avoid being covertly drawn to a flashing billboard, it is logical that glances to the billboard, may follow.” For this reason, the researchers believe that digital billboards have the potential to be dangerous because more glances and longer glances away from the road are associated with more frequent automobile accidents.

  • Centers for Disease Control & Prevention: Transportation Safety (Distracted Driving)

    Outlines the three main types of driving distraction:

    • Visual: taking your eyes off the road

    • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel

    • Cognitive: taking your mind off driving

  • La Mesa Shuts Down Distracting Digital Billboards (August 10, 2023) A California city council unexpectedly rejects a proposal to introduce digital billboards despite the loss of potential revenue after reviewing multiple safety studies confirming that that digital billboards do indeed contribute to distracted driving and increased accidents.

    CHECK OUT more safety-related peer-reviewed studies and information HERE at Scenic America's website.

Compare and contrast the above with the Distracted Driving Memorandum, dated February 22, 2024 prepared by Millcreek staff to support the discredited position that Reagan digital billboards pose no more risk to public safety than Reagan's outdated static (not-digital) billboards. This 8 page "Memorandum" has a "literature review" section that includes only three studies - the most recent being almost a decade old - all of which have been routinely touted by the outdoor advertising industry for years. Its other section includes select (and obviously misused) UDOT local traffic data internally compiled and supposedly analyzed solely by Millcreek staff and presented ostensibly to justify their bold position that a newly constructed Reagan digital billboard poses no more risk to drivers and pedestrians than an old most-likely-soon-to-be-completely-obsolete static (non-digital) Reagan billboard. However, anything more than a quick skim of the internally prepared statistical "analysis" confirms it doesn't justify their position and Millcreek's staff reliance on it and the "literature review" while ignoring common sense and multiple recent peer-reviewed published studies is of great concern.

The "Memorandum" is part of the larger Staff Report supporting the proposal to fast-track approval of the proposed substitute sign code and two additional Reagan digital billboards at Millcreek City Center. The Staff Report notably does not include a site-specific safety or traffic assessment, or even a basic walkability study, yet this is essentially the same proposal to have three digital billboards that the Mayor Silvestrini was pushing back in 2021. They had more than enough time to get these critical assessments done. It leads us to wonder why Millcreek's top staff are trying so hard to push this 2024 deal through without any site-specific safety assessments ever being done or even requested.

Speak up for common sense and public safety! Let's encourage Millcreek council members to reject the misleading and irresponsible digital billboard safety claims that are being made by Reagan Outdoor Advertising and Mayor Silvestrini's staff. Encourage them instead to embrace common sense and also consider the above studies & articles in deciding whether the revised Reagan digital billboard deal that they are trying to be push through truly protects the city's interest in ensuring traffic safety of its residents and visitors. Together we can keep Millcreek safe & stop it from being sold out to billboard advertising companies and Reagan Outdoor Advertising's advocates.

Common Sense For Millcreek Common

"The more that commercial digital signs succeed in attracting the attention of motorists that render them a worthwhile investment for owners and advertisers, the more they represent a threat to safety along our busiest streets and highways."

-Jerry Wachtel, Traffic Safety Researcher

"Billboards by their very nature can be perceived as an aesthetic harm. Likewise, the connection between billboards and traffic safety is too obvious to require empirical proof. It does not take a double-blind empirical study, or a linear regression analysis, to know that the presence of overhead signs and banners is bound to cause some drivers to slow down in order to read the sign before passing it.”

-Chief Justice Diana Sykes, US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals


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