Residents split on flashing electronic billboards

They flash chicken specials, beam pet grooming deals and emit early entry times for area amusement venues.
Andy Ouriel
Feb 20, 2013

Digital billboards, or signs constantly displaying electronic messages rotating every few seconds, have recently burst onto the advertising scene.

Since 2010, the number of digital billboards hoisted alongside U.S. roadways have boomed from 1,800 to 4,000, according to industry group Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

An unscientific Register poll determined there’s about 50 signs with electronic capabilities in Sandusky and Perkins Township. Gas price signs weren’t counted.

The signs — take, for instance, the one located at Kalahari Resort — project crystal-clear images by infusing parallel technology found in high-definition TVs.

But without a remote or off switch, these messages basically loop commercials that drivers have no choice but to glance at.

“Moving messages get noticed,” said Mark Morehart, an operations manager at Sandusky-based Brady Sign Co.

Morehart — who helps install, fix and communicate with companies making the signs — has worked with digital billboards for about 26 years.

Morehart estimates most local digital billboards cost anywhere from $15,000 to $300,000.

There’s also a $225 registration fee in Perkins Township to install such a sign, no matter the size. Most electronic signs are located on Milan Road, including Comfort Inn, Sonic and the Sandusky Mall.

But executives usually receive good value for the money spent on these “TVs on sticks.”

“It helps give you more exposure,” Morehart said.

Most digital billboards transmit messages to inform commuters about sales or products offered. But some agencies, such as Lake Erie Shores & Islands, advertise community events tourists might be interested in.

But many entrepreneurs also purchase electronic billboards because they’re convenient.

“We really enjoy the part about not having to go out in the winter time to change the letters by hand and climbing up ladders,” said Brenda Denman, owner of Lake Erie Gifts & Decor on Cleveland Road in Sandusky.

Critics contend there’s two main setbacks with digital billboards:

• They create an unwelcome big-city feel in small towns. Some people want to preserve the look and atmosphere of smaller communities.

Digital billboards just take away from a area’s uniqueness, much the way McDonald’s and Walmart do.

“Sometimes, I’ll hear people say ‘I don’t want my community to look like Las Vegas,’” Morehart said. “There is a place to have them and a place not to have them. But many people think that a 6-foot sign is the same as a 60-foot sign, and that is not the case.”

• They pose severe traffic risks by distracting drivers.

True, the signs can distract drivers — but not more than talking on a handheld device or snacking on a tasty treat while driving, Morehart argues.

“Regardless of whether you’re looking at an electronic billboard, dialing a phone or eating a sandwich, you owe it to the person next to you to be responsible,” Morehart said. “All of us want to drive to our destination safe.”



I doubt that the electronic signs are distracting. MOST drivers are too busy texting to notice ANYTHING around them.


Good point.

More like: These flashing signs are a distraction from talking on a cell phone and texting.


I think what SR commenters really want to know is: could these signs somehow endanger motorcyclists?


I think they are a distraction. Big eye back during Halloween(Ghostly Manner) freaked a few people out.


that one flashes so fast you can't even read it....


Think about it, the point of these "flashing billboards" is to distract drivers... Does that really sound like a good idea?


No. They are highly distracting. I went by one once while it was switching and it used red and blue flashing lights. I pulled over to the side of the road thinking it was the police or ambulance, just to see it was a sign behind me. I was not amused. If someone thinks it's funny to cry wolf driving down a highway....think further. I would never shop at that store. Promise.

Not to mention, I turn my cell phone off while driving. It's the responsible thing to do.

Cram it, Mark Morehart.


Remember the drunk girl that pulled over in fromt of the Manor thinking it was the cops behind her. She sat there long enough and they did end up showing up behind her!

Pterocarya frax...

That was luvblues2.


I am not a "she", Pf. Must be a "distraction" for you, huh?


I've said since they were installed, when someone is fatally injured due to those, they will come down. They are so distracting, especially the one(s) on if Cedar Point traffic isn't bad enough.


I first saw one of these signs outa state in ’07 or ’08.

IMO, there's a psychological factor.

Currently they are noticed because they are a novelty. Eventually drivers will acclimate to them and they will lose their effectiveness.

Besides; GLANCE at stuff on the side and FOCUS ON THE ROAD!


Yeah...drivin' down the highway in the middle of the night and just ignore something that is almost as bright as daylight. Are you daft?


Unless you're not human, our species tends to adapt.


If adaption is ignorance, I choose not to do so.


Moderators have removed this comment because it contained Profane, obscene, sexual or derogatory language.




I agree with you about some signs being a real problem. Try the one on Rt 2 by the Cancer Center. That thing looks as if it sits in the middle of the road. It changes at times and is extremely distracting to say nothing of extremely bright at times. As dark as that highway is, do they need a 5 million watt bulb to light it up?

BW1's picture

It's a simple matter of self-discipline. If you can't manage it, perhaps it's time to cut up your license.


If they are going to do it they need to do what Kasper did, up high and out of site - if i want to look at it i will look up.


Milan Township prohibits flashing signs that would distract drivers.

SHould be that way everywhere.

Kottage Kat

Edison high school has one
Very distracting at night
Not sure if in township


I thought I was the only one who ever pulled over after seeing red and blue flashing lights in my rear view mirror. I am surprised that there aren't more zoning laws prohibiting these. As far as ignoring them, that's as easy as ignoring a car pulling out in front of you. Unless you have tunnel vision, you will see them.

BW1's picture

If you lack the acuity to tell a sign from a police car, then maybe you shouldn't be driving. Ignoring signs is a simple matter of self discipline.
Maybe you should ask your doctor about a prescription for Ritalin.


I hate when they flash Red or Blue I look in my rear view thinking I need to move over.

Phil Packer

That one drunk woman pulled herself over in front of one on Milan road.


Contango has $$$ invested in the signs. Can't y'all tell?


And trust me. There are some of those signs that have motion sensors on them so that when you pass by, the red and blue lights come on. I've seen it enough myself to not notice. What happens when it's a real cop and you don't pull over?

Fun in advertising.


yes, the more "adapted" we become by that red, white and blue" sign, the less likely we all are to take the cops seriously when they do pull us over. Frustrating isn't it?

I really dislike that sign.


Those things are so blinding just like the newer headlights and mar / bar lights ( on the police cruisers).