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Archive for Thursday, September 19, 2013

Editorial: Distracting signs

City officials should consider ways to rein in the use of sign-waving advertisers at busy city intersections.

September 19, 2013

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A recent story in the Journal-World pretty much put to rest any questions about whether waving an advertising sign at a busy intersection in Lawrence is a job most people would want. The question that it didn’t answer, however — and the question city officials perhaps should ask themselves — is whether those signs constitute a nuisance that should be addressed by a city ordinance.

When reporter Chad Lawhorn talked to the sign-wavers at 23rd and Iowa streets, he learned that it was common for motorists to wave at the workers or perhaps offer a less-friendly gesture. When Lawhorn invited motorists to express their opinion of the sign-wavers by honking their horns, the drivers complied.

With all the current research and conversation about drivers being distracted by cell phones or other electronic devices, it seems logical to ask whether these human billboards at busy intersections constitute a dangerous distraction. When motorists are waving, honking or just reading the signs, their attention is being drawn from their primary activity: driving. It’s not hard to imagine that distraction contributing to rear-end collisions or more serious accidents.

City officials say sign-holders in the public right of way don’t need to have permits and attempts to regulate the practice would be complicated by concerns about protecting First Amendment rights to expression. Nonetheless, it seems that there would be ways to rein in a business practice that many residents find visually annoying, if not hazardous.

The city may not be able to regulate political speech, but could it eliminate signs that are being waved to advertise a commercial venture? Or require that sign-holders advertising a business be located within a certain number of feet of that business?

Nothing against the intersection sign-wavers personally, but many people see them as not only distracting to drivers but also detracting from the general appearance of the city. The business owners who use them must think they attract customers, but some observers may wonder whether the sign-wavers project the kind of image a business would want to foster.

The city has all kinds of regulations governing the placement of permanent signs in the community. The goal of those restrictions is to contribute to a desirable visual character in the city and to make sure signs don’t obstruct the view of motorists. From both a safety and aesthetic standpoint, regulating human signboards at busy intersections might be worth a look by city officials.

Comments

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 3 months ago

"When motorists are waving, honking or just reading the signs, their attention is being drawn from their primary activity: driving. It’s not hard to imagine that distraction contributing to rear-end collisions or more serious accidents."

Imagination can be a powerful thing. It's obvious that there are also many brilliantly lit advertising signs that distract motorists. In fact, their primary purpose is to attract the attention of drivers, and they can be seen all over town.

What I would like to see is some statistics that correlate human billboards to accidents, and if they are as likely to contribute to accidents as say, texting while driving. If they are dangerous, the human billboards should have been the cause of at least a few accidents by now. But, I haven't heard of any. Of course, the business owner would bear at least partial responsibility for those accidents, and they will certainly need to purchase liability insurance for them.

Or, is this a solution in search of a problem?

Ron Holzwarth 1 year, 3 months ago

Clipped from:
http://www.abcactionnews.com/dpp/news/st-petersburg-considers-banning-human-signs

The proposed law would limit where human signs can advertise, and how they behave.

"Human signs shall not spin, twirl, swing, gyrate, or move in any other type of exaggerated fashion to distract drivers," the ordinance stated.

For Stetzler, that would virtually wipe out his whole act.

"If we weren't dancing we might as well just have a billboard out here," said the sign spinner. "There's no point in somebody holding the sign when we could just have some stakes in the ground holding the billboard, you know?"

The city contends that it's a safety issue, and that removing human signs would limit potentially dangerous distractions for drivers.

"They've never produced any evidence that any sign spinner has ever caused a car accident," said David McKalip, a local brain surgeon and community activist. "But they will hurt those poor people who need jobs," McKalip said.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 year, 3 months ago

I thought this berg already had an all encompassing sign ordnance?? Flashing signs, painted murals, other unimaginable offenses to the sensitive citizens of Larryville.

webmocker 1 year, 3 months ago

". . . but some observers may wonder whether the sign-wavers project the kind of image a business would want to foster."

Because a mattress company allegedly going out of business cares so much about its image and UseLess Furniture has always clearly been concerned about classy advertising.

Matthew Herbert 1 year, 3 months ago

Last summer I saw a man (potentially furniture delivery driver?) in a Payless Furniture company truck pull into the gas station at the corner of 19th & Mass, get out and throw away an empty bottle of liquor, stagger back in his truck and drive away. It was such a perfect image for everything I've always thought about Payless Furniture.

tomatogrower 1 year, 2 months ago

Yeah, their stupid classy sign, that he would have gotten rid of long ago, but people complain about it. He just sells disposable furniture to gullible college students.

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

"Freedom of speech in the United States is protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution and by many state constitutions and state and federal laws. The freedom of speech is not absolute; the Supreme Court of the United States has recognized several categories of speech that are excluded from the freedom, and it has recognized that governments may enact reasonable time, place, or manner restrictions on speech." ahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_...

Not that Wikipedia is the final word or that we know how to read it, but we should be able to contain these portable signs. We already have a sign ordinance that regulates signs. It isn't being enforced very well. All those small temporary commercial signs along the streets are not allowed according to the ordinance. It would not be hard to add another category for his new fad. Dolph Simons is right. These signs trash the community and should be included in the sign ordinance.

Maggie Morrissey 1 year, 2 months ago

They can't stop Fred Phelps's gang from standing on corners with truly offensive signs and THIS is a concern??????????

Carol Bowen 1 year, 2 months ago

Different classification. Phelps' church is not commercial. Check out the Wikipedia link for more information.

Liberty275 1 year, 2 months ago

"City officials say sign-holders in the public right of way don’t need to have permits and attempts to regulate the practice would be complicated by concerns about protecting First Amendment rights to expression."

Thank you City of Lawrence.

Laura Wilson 1 year, 2 months ago

I totally agree. It's distracting only if you, the motorist, allow it to be. Other distractions could be people walking, loud engines revving, bicyclists, birds flying in front of your car. Anything can be a distraction.

I do think that these type of signs should be in front of the business. I've seen some over a mile away from the business in question.

kernal 1 year, 2 months ago

How about more meaningful signs, such as: "Whatta u lookin' at?"; "Hang up the phone, Stupid!" or "Pay Attention!". LOL.

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