North Cowichan’s council has asked for staff report on LED highway signs and their impacts on distracted driving. (File photo)

LED signs on highway too distracting? N. Cowichan investigating

Studies indicate lights distract drivers, causing crashes

Flashing digital LED signs placed along roadways and their impacts on distracted driving will be the subject of a staff report in North Cowichan.

Council unanimously asked for the report after a presentation by Craig Meredith at the council meeting on Dec. 6.

Meredith reported that he had been blinded by white light coming from a flashing LED sign coming from a car dealership along the Trans Canada highway in North Cowichan.

He suggested the municipality may wish to seek legal advice before approving more digital sign permits and, at the least, consider amending the signage bylaw to include regulations as far as brightness and distraction is concerned.

Meredith said a new study published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention has concluded that digital billboards attract and hold the gazes of drivers for far longer than a threshold that previous studies have shown to be dangerous.

He also pointed out that visual distraction is a contributing factor in 93 per cent of rear-end crashes, and in almost 80 per cent of crashes and 65 per cent of near-crashes, some form of driver inattention was involved within three seconds before the event.

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“A study conducted by researchers at the Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute found that drivers looked at digital billboards significantly longer than they did at other signs on the same stretch of road, with the digital signs often taking a driver’s eyes off the road for more than two seconds,” Meredith told council.

“The Swedish government had given temporary authorization to erect digital billboards in 2009, but as a result of this and related studies, the government ordered the removal of all digital billboards and many U.S. states have also followed suit.”

Meredith said his concern as a resident of North Cowichan is that the municipality is going to be found jointly liable for allowing digital billboards to distract drivers on highways where people travel more than 90 kilometers an hour.

Coun. Rob Douglas said he defers to the studies Meredith mentioned.

“There appears to be causal relationship between these signs and distracted driving,” he said.

“I would like to see what options we have at the municipal level in a staff report.”

Coun. Tom Walker said the concerns should be taken seriously.

“Things outside of a vehicle can be just as distracting to drivers as things inside the vehicle,” he said.

“When you’re doing 90 kilometres an hour, there’s a lot to keep track of. Light hitting your eyes can be distracting so I’d also like to see a report on this.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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