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.

2cents's picture

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).


I wonder if anyone has ever had sometype of seizure brought on by one--actually think they're pretty cool though. Starryeyes brought up my biggest complaint--the brightness of headlights nowadays.-- I find the worst ones are on the newer full size pick-up trucks. I had one behind me at a light one morning at 6:30 am and it's lights lit up the entire cockpit of my car--let alone shown in my rear view mirror so brightly I was temporarily blinded.


The one on Rt 2 has brought on my migraine more than once. I actually wrote a very nice letter to them, but it must have been ignored because it has not been dimmed even a little bit. I try avoiding going that way whenever I can, but it isn't always possible.

That a those darn BLUE headlights. (before you all go "no way", my neurologist says they DO cause migraines for many people, not just me. Light, all light, vibrates at certain frequency and some colors can cause migraine headaches or just plain headaches for is the number one culprit).


I don't doubt that one iota wired-- I am just aware of a person who suffers from epileptic seizures and she would tell me of times that she would have to avert her eyes from strobe lights or even t.v. commercials/shows that would flash pictures in quick succession. (Heck, that kind of stuff even makes me queezy).


Oh, yes, I know that feeling. Some of the new "lasar light" commercials are killers.

2cents's picture

“Moving messages get noticed,” said Mark Morehart"

They absolutely do not in many cases Mr. Morehart. You need to get up on your technology and the human response. When you over drive the eye it will turn away and mine never even looks at the Ghostly Manor sign anymore because of its constant excessively bright intensity. The people programing them have the ability to drive the display as hard or soft as they want and brighter is not better kids!

For example the LCC sign on the side of the new building at 480 and the Ohio Turnpike was turned on super bright at first, you could not even glance at it in the night because of how bright it was. They learned fast, either there were a bunch of wreaks or people complained but it is now about one third the intensity and I can now view it and the message they are providing.

I have said this in these blogs before with the police car LED lights, LED Christmas lights outside and with these LED signs as well. Just because you can drive these things super bright, SHOULD you? It is in the hands of the advertising people and soon to be regulators if they cannot self-regulate themselves. I have yet to be asked in a study about advertising a question about these displays.

"Digital Billboards, Diversions Drivers Can’t Escape"




It won't be long before many lawsuits will be filed for willful driver distractions by these electronic billboards and signs. One can turn off a cell phone, not look at any distractions on your dashboard but how does one ignore these bright LED lights in your line of vision while driving, especially at night? I can see having these signs in Las Vegas but why distract drivers in other cities, especially if these signs are in your line of sight while driving, especially at night?

Some people will tell you that these digital or electronic signs help drum up business. I think not. I make plans to visit and spend money at some business long before I see their electronic signs out front. These signs have been around for a few years and I have yet to spend money at a business because of their animated electronic signs.

BW1's picture

"One can turn off a cell phone, not look at any distractions on your dashboard but how does one ignore these bright LED lights in your line of vision while driving, especially at night?"

Easily, with a little self discipline and focus.

"Some people will tell you that these digital or electronic signs help drum up business. I think not. I make plans to visit and spend money at some business long before I see their electronic signs out front. These signs have been around for a few years and I have yet to spend money at a business because of their animated electronic signs."

Your mistake is assuming everyone shares your tastes and preferences. Take one look at what succeeds and you'll see that most people are magpies who spend money on shiny crap.

The Hero Zone's picture
The Hero Zone

If the spread of these billboards has people concerned then the next step in this kind of advertising - AR, or, "augmented reality" - will be an interesting transition. That one is a bit more controlled as you have to have another device such as Google Goggles or a handheld gaming device in order to project the signs/ads. I can see AR windshields being a car option in the next 15 years. To that extent car exteriors you can color yourself with whatever digital "wallpaper" you like (including moving images).


@ THR...omg, I sincerely hope not. If they do that, they better put us on rails so we don't kill one another reading each other's cars as we pass by. I can just see some tall gal hologram standing on top a sign someday begging you to "come on in" as you drive by. Just great. My husband will be turning in at every driveway....LOL

Good 2 B Me

The ones at the Confort Inn/Baci and the other Hotel on 250 next to it are awful at night. Out of the blue they are Blinding Bright. It is very tough to not be shocked by it when passing by them. They are awful on the eyes.

he said she said

Luv: I thought an emergency vehicle was behind me too a couple of times only to look in the mirror and see that damn sign.

They tell us that talking on a cell phone will cause an accident because you fail to pay attention to the road. How can you pay attention to the road when you have these signs that are so bright that it draws our attention from the road to the sign??

BW1's picture

Must focus, Daniel-sahn.


@he said, she said....exactly! I have often wondered if you get in an accident because one of those signs distracts you for even an instant, what will the police say to you when you tell them that other than "you should be watching the road and not the sign". Except they are hard not to see sometimes when they FLASH.


I personally would like to see Andy O. get some professional opinions on these comments.

How about it, Andy?

You know, bud. Some of those old fashioned things called psychologist's and cop's opinions? Just for a start, of course....:)

A salesman....well,... SELLS.

BW1's picture

Ever notice that all the problems in society for which psychologists claim to have solutions tend to increase in correlation with the number of psychologists?

It's pretty simple. How many cars travel down those stretches of 250 every day. Now, how many accidents are there? Notice the HUGE disparity between those two numbers? That means that every day THOUSANDS of drivers manage to drive safely past those signs, and I guarantee that none of them is an interplanetary orphan named Kal El. It's astounding how some people characterize as beyond human capability things that so many other ordinary people manage to do every single day. This sort of learned helplessness will be the downfall of our civilization.

There will ALWAYS be distracting stimuli while driving, and part of driving is ignoring them and focusing on the task at hand. Last week, when a meteor streaked across Russia, it passed over millions of drivers who nevertheless managed to maintain safe control of their vehicles. Back in the horse and buggy days, they put blinders on horses to keep them from being spooked by anything on the side of the road. If someone feels that it's too great an expectation to muster any better control over their mental state than a dumb hooved beast has, I don't want them out in public without supervision, let alone driving a car. Come on, people, time to cowboy up and stop whining over driving being a complex task that requires mental effort.

LISTEN to yourselves - someone recounts that a drunk driver pulled over thinking the sign was a police cruiser, and a whole chorus chimes in, completely unashamed to tell the world that they couldn't manage better performance sober than this girl could drunk. Expect more of yourself - if not for your own sake, for the survival of our society.

When I was a kid, my mother would wash our mouths out with soap for uttering all George Carlins 7 dirty words, AND for uttering the phrase, "I can't." Seems like we could use more parenting like that, since "I can't" is becoming a national litany.


;)... There we go. It only took two pages.

Not to mention the cops probably love it. I'm sure they would want more signs if people would pull themselves over. Damn, I just love cynical and snide behavior.