Digital billboards under spotlight in distracted driving debate

Digital signs are distracting and should be more tightly regulated, complain some Edmonton drivers.

Drivers complain ad diplays are too bright especially at night

The City of Edmonton tests every digital billboard for brightness before approval, said spokesperson Gail Hickmore. (CBC News)

Digital billboards are distracting and should be more tightly regulated, say some Edmonton drivers.     

"You know what's a distraction?” asks motorist Dennis Dvernychuk. “My personal opinion is when you have them too bright and they flash."

Greg Macdonald, general manager of Astral Out-of-Home, has been in the sign business for decades.

He says new electronic billboards are the way of the future.

"One digital sign actually does the same work as 10 old paper posted billboards," he said, adding that new signs may mean fewer billboards and less clutter on the road. 

While most of the signs flash a different visually-static ad every six seconds, Macdonal draws the line at the digital billboards that play video.  

"Video is for being in your living room at home watching TV, when you don't have anything else you're responsible for like driving a motor vehicle,” he said.

“I don't support video nor will we have video, in my opinion, in the future."

Most of the complaints to the city concern the brightness of the billboards, especially at night, said spokesperson Gail Hickmore.

She said every sign is examined for brightness before it’s approved.

“Every digital sign, we do allow transportation (officials) to review the sign to confirm they're in support of it before we do make an approval on it,” she said.

Hickmore says anyone who has an issue with a sign is encouraged to file a complaint with the city by calling 311.

"We do have an enforcement team that would measure the brightness and contact the sign owner to turn down the sign if it is too bright," she said.

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