The sky is a little dark. Perhaps it’s dusk, maybe it’s dawn.
Driving down portions of U.S. 27 can be difficult for many drivers – especially if it’s night and you’re driving through Sebring.
No, it’s not the increased traffic that makes it difficult. It’s not even the numerous red lights that you may have to stop for.
Instead, it’s the bright lights coming from the LED billboards that has many motorists upset.
While businesses enjoy putting their logos and advertisements up on them because they are bright, sometimes amusing and new, motorists find them to be a “huge distraction,” especially at night. Certain billboards, like the huge one in front of Shelby Crossing and two on the southbound lane north of the Sebring Parkway, were singled out because they appear to be too bright at night.
It seems those that change every few seconds are also a nuisance to drivers. However, the faster the advertiser changes, the more money is going into the pockets of the entrepreneurs.
Sure, they can serve a “purpose” as one billboard owner pointed out, like promoting special events and offering amber alerts, but when the billboards are so bright that drivers have to squint to get past them they become a nuisance and a hazard.
One billboard owner said federal and state regulators have agreed on rules for the billboards to automatically adjust brightness based on the level of natural light throughout the day so it is not blinding or too bright.
Along with meeting county or municipality codes and regulations, billboards erected on state roads require permitting by the Florida Department of Transportation. The county sign codes do not address brightness, which is regulated by FDOT.
We’d like for them to test some of the billboards that line U.S. 27.
Even better, we’d like to suggest that the county and the city of Sebring follow their bookend sisters. The city of Avon Park and the town of Lake Placid have so far kept digital billboards out of their limits. Kudos to them!
The city of Sebring does have an ordinance in place that allows a billboard on U.S. 27 to be relocated, such as one being removed and a new one being built. Officials say no more billboards are allowed right now, though. We hope it stays that way. It’s actually a shame that a static billboard can be replaced with a digital billboard, just increasing the chance in the future that more of these blinding signs will be erected.
In other parts of the city, no new billboards are allowed and if an existing billboard requires 50 percent or more of its value to be repaired, it cannot be replaced.
Lake Placid prohibits all billboards, including off-premesis and on-premises, and also prohibits signs with moving or blinking lights. Avon Park does not allow billboards of any type, unless annexed into the city.
Geez, wouldn’t that be nice throughout the county. Then a pleasant drive down our county’s main thoroughfare would stay just that – pleasant. No signs to distract us. No glaring lights to cause us to squint as we drive by. Just a peaceful drive with an unobscured view and a more beautiful landscape.
Be sure to let your city and county officials know how you feel about the types, as well as the number, of billboards that you want to see in the county. We live in a county where our communities are taking pride. We have one shot at getting travelers to turn off U.S. 27 to come into our communities, let’s not blow it by turning them off with the massive number of billboards.