As cell phones and other digital devices exploded distracted driving into a national epidemic, we got busy and went to high schools and to non-profits and to company employers and employees to alert them about the dangers of distracted driving. Students are being educated and employers are adopting policies. Progress is being made. People are getting the message. But, now comes the Big Billboard Industry. It wants City Council to gut the charter change Jacksonville’s voters passed by a landslide.

There are many reasons this digital billboard end-run should be rejected, but one stands out for me: traffic safety!

Allowing all new billboards to be rotating digitals invites driver distraction, and, with it, personal injury and wrongful death. Jacksonville has some rotating digital billboards already, and you may have noticed that, when you glance at them, one message is often already there and you have to focus there to pick the message up before it rotates. Those few seconds are dangerous. Our eyes and brain are distracted by the rotating message; they are not focused on the one job we have behind the wheel: driving.

The Industry bill would allow new digital billboards on highways that have been billboard free, such as Butler Boulevard, SR 9A (now I-295), SR 9B, Brannan Field/Chaffee Road, Cecil Commerce Center Parkway, Wonderwood Connector, Hart Expressway and Old St. Augustine Road. Watch out on those roads if this happens. You might wisely resist looking at these digital rotators, but what about the drivers around you?

And, strange as it may seem, the Industry bill would eliminate traffic safety as a basis for regulating billboards, even those that change messages over 10,000 times a day. The Industry wants the City Council to protect it from being accountable for the very hazards the Industry wants to create.

There are several things you can do to stop this expansion of distracted driving and its dangers:

  1. Contact the City Council and demand they stop this special interest legislation.  Click here for a link to their website.
  2. Contact Mayor Brown and ask him to veto Ordinance 2013-493 should it pass the City Council.  Click here for a link to the Mayor.
  3. Attend the following public hearings on the bill:
    • August 13, 5:00 p.m. – Jacksonville City Council, First Floor, City Hall, 117 W. Duval Street
    • August 15, 1:00 p.m. – Planning Commission, First Floor, Ed Ball Building, 214 N. Hogan Street
    • August 20, 5:00 p.m. – City Council Land Use and Zoning Committee, First Floor, City Hall, 117 W. Duval Street
    • August 27, 5:00 p.m. – Jacksonville City Council, First Floor, City Hall, 117 W. Duval Street

4.  Pass this message on to your friends and associates right away. Time is of the essence!