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New Foe Against Digital Billboards?

Billboard activists are happy to learn that a Kentucky governor is on their side – at least for now.

Last month, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported that Kentucky governor Steve Beshear ordered that a major proposed change in billboard regulations be withdrawn because of safety fears. The bill would have allowed electronic billboards with changing messages along interstates and major highways.

Kentucky’s Transportation Cabinet submitted the bill for legislative review. According to the Courier-Journal, the Governor stepped in after he learned from the director of the Kentucky Resources Council that “available credible evidence suggests that multi-message electronic billboards are a safety risk.”

In addition to Kentucky, Montana’s transportation commission issued a moratorium on digital billboards, pending a study of traffic safety.

Los Angeles City Council members might want to take note. In 2007, instead of holding billboard companies’ feet to the fire with an effective crackdown on billboards, City Council members allowed CBS Outdoor, Clear Channel and Regency Outdoor to digitally modify a whopping 800 plus billboards.

In April, Los Angeles City Council voted to place two digital billboards next to the 10 Freeway.

“[Kentucky and Montana] have shown that they believe there are serious concerns about the effect of digital billboards on driver distraction that need to be thoroughly studied before allowing them on our busy streets and highways,” said Los Angeles billboard activist Dennis Hathaway. “Unfortunately, our own city council blatantly ignored these concerns in voting to allow Clear Channel to put giant digital billboards alongside the 10 freeway downtown. Apparently officials in Kentucky and Montana and elsewhere value the lives and limbs of motorists more highly than do our own elected officials here in L.A., who have scarcely raised a whimper in response to the quest by the outdoor advertising industry to make it impossible for us to drive anywhere without being assaulted by these brilliantly-lighted, rapidly-changing commercial messages.”

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