Are digital billboards good business or a traffic hazard? - WMBFNews.com, Myrtle Beach/Florence SC, Weather

Are digital billboards good business or a traffic hazard?

Michigan -

(NBC) - We all know it can be dangerous to talk and text while driving, and now there's another possible distraction for those behind the wheel: digital roadside billboards.

Some say they're the future of roadside advertising. The billboards use flashing messages that change every six to eight seconds, designed to catch a driver's eye.

According to groups seeking to ban or limit their use on busy highways, these billboards can be safety hazards.

"You have no choice there, you're captive to a very major driver distraction," said Abby Dart of Scenic Michigan.

Even more of a distraction, she says, than texting or cell phone use while driving.

"When you text or use your phone, you have the choice not to use it. But when you're driving down the highway your eye is drawn to the digital billboard whether you want to or not," said Dart.

Lawmakers in Michigan and Minnesota are among those considering a moratorium on construction of new digital billboards until more is known about their potential danger. The industry claims its studies show these kinds of messages don't change driver behavior any more than ordinary billboards.

"All of them have come back and said that digital billboards are safe," said Jeff Golimowski of Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

In addition, companies say they can play an important public safety role.

"Last Thursday, we interrupted all of our advertisers for an Amber Alert. Those are the types of things we're able to do and we're able to react quickly to it," said Rick Steele of Adams Outdoor Advertising.

Eye candy that can be a useful tool - or an eye sore that's potentially dangerous.

More and more cities across the country are attempting to ban new construction of digital billboards until a federal study into the safety issue is complete.

The Federal Highway Administration study is expected to be finished by this summer.

Copyright 2010 NBC. All rights reserved.

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