In 2008, billboards adjacent to a suburban highway in Israel were covered up, and accidents were analyzed compared to data from 2006 and 2007, when the billboards were visible.
There was a significant decrease in the number of total accidents and in accidents with injuries. Damage-only accidents were not significantly affected.
Mike Dawida, executive director of Scenic Pittsburgh, has sent a letter asking Pennsylvania state legislators to make Pennsylvania highways safer by regulating billboards.
"The issue now is very clear that they cause accidents, and those accidents cost lives and a lot of property damage as well, so it’s clear enough that I think the Legislature may want to act," he said.
Dawida said he does not expect an immediate response, because lawmakers are focused on the upcoming election and on finishing up the budget year.
Other studies around the world have been contradictory or lacking proper methodology. In terms of digital billboards, a study in Sweden has led that country to ban them completely, while a Department of Transportation study in the U.S. (January 2014) found they are no more distracting than stationary signs.
Dawida said billboards are very lucrative for companies, yet they pay very little.
"They are on public rights of way — they are tax-payer-generated roads which basically they get a freebie on," he said.