The Hang Up on the 5

Is there some sort of law or ordinance that prohibits freakishly bright or distracting signs next to freeways? Cuz there should be.

I drive down to Orange County a couple of times a month on weekends. And every time we return on the 5 north through City of Commerce there is a slowdown at the Citadel. This only started recently. It started when they installed those sun-bright animated signs. The thing is, it’s not just how bright they are (and we’re often returning at dusk), it’s that they’re animated and they have no fade or transition between the advertisements.

That’s right, they blink around mentioning Starbucks, the current Lottery, shoe sales then they go black and then they come on again, full bright. It’s distracting. I’m distracted. I’m annoyed.

People driving on the freeway are not a captive audience. We have a job to do, we have to drive. Stop trying to get us to make decisions about shoes or sticky buns while we’re navigating traffic!

For the record, this photo is from last summer when I first started grumbling about them:

16 thoughts on “The Hang Up on the 5”

  1. I’m all for minimal regulation when it comes to billboards and such, but when it does create such an obvious public hazard and hindrance something needs to be done. Unfortunately, it looks like a major chunk of change was spent getting these LED screens up and I don’t think it will be easy to pull them down.

  2. I find this new trend of ultra distracting billboards to be really, really dangerous. One I find real annoying is the KABC sign at the intersection of the 5 and 134 fwys, right where people should be concentrating on merging, rather than the current temp or the purty colors of our country’s flag.

    But I don’t know the best way to regulate this, since I tend to look rather unfavorably on government restrictions on “speech”. But there has to be some kind of limit when it comes to public safety, at least when it comes to these commercial signs.

  3. Yes! Those signs are bright as all hell. It practically creates a light dome over that part of the 5. It doesn’t help matters that they’re all sync’ed up either, creating even more of a distraction.

    Nice photo, I like the symbolism of the skid marks in the foreground. Coincidence?

  4. I hate those signs. They nearly caused a traffic accident when I drove back from the Dodger Game last weekend. People just shut off like they are giant TV’s.

    Isn’t there a law against them?

  5. I’ve noticed the exact same thing everytime I pass those awful things. The traffic there used to move 30 mph+, and now it’s stuck in the bumper to bumper -15mph. For what? Shoe Pavillion and a Lotto ad? If I was in an accident there, I would certainly be inclined to have my lawyer go after the mall, and the companies advertising. Similar idea if you turned the corner, saw a billboard of a naked woman 30 ft wide, and got into an accident because you were distracted. You might have a good enough case.

  6. In the City of L.A., there is an planning rule that prevents signs to be installed that are directed to the Freeway motorists. There are sometimes exemptions granted (Collesium, Staples), but other than that, you don’t see new signs installed toward the freeway. (Billboards fall into this category, too; but a lot existed before the rule and were grandfathered in which is why you do see them occasionally.)

  7. I believe the technology behind those type of signs comes from Texas. A state not exactly known for its devotion to safe and focused driving. But I’ve noticed them and wondered myself – do signs like that NOT cause accidents? or is the commercial value return just greater than the occasional injury that the merchants advertising won’t be held responsible for?

  8. db – I don’t think this qualifies under free speech protections – no one’s saying they can’t have their say, but it’s a similar hazard to yelling fire in a crowded theater.

    Alex – that’s why I added in last year’s picture, I got the skid marks in there better. I have some other photos that show the slowdown better (don’t worry, I wasn’t driving) but they don’t show the signs (as the braking is done about a half a mile back, around the casino).

    LA City Nerd – I’m wondering if the Citadel falls in the unincorporated areas and maybe it’s exempt from those ordinances?

  9. Well if you think the traffic is a headache, think about the residents of Commerce. I have a friend who lives across the freeway, in Commerce. The residential street, and homes are lit up at night with that flashing! It’s just amazing! They can’t leave drapes open at night, otherwise the billboard flashing interrupts the quiet darkness inside their home, sheeeesh.

    The billboards are so hugh, and bright, when he first pointed them out to me from the curb, I actually thought the billboards were on his side of the I5!

  10. The same slowing down thing happens every time there’s a freeway alert out, even when the signs are just saying “Click it or Ticket” or “Don’t Drive Drunk”.

  11. Those signs hurt when you’re driving back to LA in the middle of the night after a long day waiting in line for Space Mountain.

  12. These things are so distracting no matter what time of day, but especially at night. I’ve been wanting to complain about these too… glad to see that I’m not the only one.

  13. Sheepishly I write, I actually like the videoboards at the citadel. When I use to commute to OC everyday, at 6:15, it was a nice beacon as I made my way south.

    On a side note: I’m really bad with directions so landmarks are always a comfort to me as I use them to determine where I am and how far.

  14. ok here is my question…. why not tax the crap out of billboards and junk mail? NO ONE likes either industry so we might as well makes some money off of them and maybe they will go away..

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