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Texas experienced unprecedented economic growth during the automobile era, with a vast highway network developing across the state as a result.  Scenic Texas has worked successfully for years to encourage landscaping of Texas highways and to foster context-sensitive design of highway construction projects.  However, the visual quality of many Texas roadways has deteriorated because of the proliferation of billboards.  Scenic Texas works to reduce billboard blight in Texas, and to stop the construction of new billboards wherever possible.  Scenic Texas is committed to restoring a positive image and preserving the legendary vistas that have made the Lone Star State famous.

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23 Texas Cities Earn Prominent Scenic City Certification in 2016

Cities recognized for excellence in scenic standards, total number of certified cities grows to 66

HOUSTON – Twenty-three Texas municipalities have been awarded Scenic City Certification through the Scenic City Certification Program, a project of Scenic Texas. The Scenic City program supports and recognizes cities for commitment to high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and public spaces. Nine cities are now certified for the first time, and 14 are re-certifying or upgrading existing certification status, bringing the total certified cities in Texas to 66.

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New Studies Indicate Digital Billboards Compromise Driver Safety: New studies confirm the evidence 

A review of recent research on driver distraction near digital billboards finds increased evidence the bright, constantly changing digital billboards negatively impact traffic safety. The compendium highlights new studies proving digital billboards are attracting longer and more frequent glances from drivers than do static signs.

The compendium’s author, engineering psychologist Jerry Wachtel of the Veridian Group, said that while digital billboards may be succeeding in capturing driver attention and for that reason “they represent a growing threat to traffic safety, particularly along our busiest streets and highways.”

A 2015 study of eight digital billboard locations on highways in Florida and Alabama showed significantly higher crash rates, 25% in Florida and 29% in Alabama, at sites near the digital billboards than those further away. A disproportionate number were rear-end and sideswipe collisions, both typical of crashes caused by driver distraction.

“These studies are especially alarming given the rate at which digital billboards are going up around the country,” said Mary Tracy, president of Scenic America. “It is particularly concerning that our federal government became complicit in these growing threats to public health when they allowed these signs to start going up without first requiring a study to prove they do not endanger driver safety.”

In 2007 the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reversed a long-held position by giving the green light to digital billboards utilizing “flashing, blinking or intermittent lighting” along federal highways. With no safety analysis, FHWA declared that billboards changing as frequently as 20,000 times a day were not changing “intermittently” as long as they were static for 4 seconds.

This June, Texas Congressman Ted Poe,  along with three other Members of Congress,  urged USDOT/FHWA in a congressional letter to reconsider the decision to authorize digital billboards to operate along the federal highway system. The request was accompanied by the compendium of safety studies reported by the Veridian Group.

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Scenic Austin rallies all who care about Austin to oppose digital billboards

In late 2015, the leading owner of outdoor advertising billboards in Austin asked the city to permit conversion of existing billboards across Austin into digital, changeable message boards that would switch advertisements as often as every eight seconds.  Currently, city ordinances prohibit such conversion.

In opposition to this billboard industry request, Scenic Austin,led by Scenic Texas executive committee member and Scenic Austin President Girard Kinney, is actively engaged in a public outreach and education program to urge Austin citizens, neighborhood associations and businesses to speak out against this conversion.  Scenic Austin is urging those who oppose digital billboards to share their stance with Austin City Council. Scenic Austin believes that 24 hour per day, changing, brightly lit billboards pose a significant driver distraction and would negatively affect quality of life for all who live and work in Austin, and all who visit.

A new Scenic Austin video clearly and pointedly describes the economic development and quality of life problems that digital billboards present.   The path that Austin City Council chooses to take on this issue is being watched closely across Texas.

Thanks in large part to Scenic Austin’s work empowering citizens to weigh on this important issue, City of Austin staff recently issued a memorandum to the Mayor and members of Austin City Council recommending that current Austin ordinance language not be changed.   This recommendation supports maintaining the status quo, and keeping Austin free of digital billboards. Austin City Council may take a vote on the matter this summer.

Contact Scenic Austin for more information on digital billboard safety issues and how to weigh in with Austin City Council to voice opposition to any measure that unleashes digital billboards across Austin.

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  • The Scenic City Certification Program is a project of Scenic Texas. Learn more about Scenic Cities and how your city might become one! read more »

  • Scenic Texas, Inc.