FairWarning’s investigation of the billboard industry and its regulators finds illegal, poisonous, tree-clearing practices:
“Robert J. Barnhart was a crew chief for a billboard company, and a soldier in a war on trees. Trees were the enemy if they spoiled the view of a billboard. On days of an attack, Barnhart, 27, would arrive by dawn at Lamar Advertising Co. in Tallahassee, Fla. After removing the magnetic Lamar logo from a company truck, he would set forth with a machete, a hospital mask and a container of what he described as a ‘pretty gnarly’ herbicide.”
And a five year long federal research project on whether flashing billboards distract drivers, with suspect results:
“According to records obtained by FairWarning under the Freedom of Information Act, expert reviewers have told the that the study appears to have been botched. The key findings vary so wildly from previous research that, as one reviewer put it, they ‘are not plausible.’ …
“In the FHWA study, recorded glances were so brief that none came close to 2 seconds or even 1.6 seconds. Only about 1 percent were above three-quarters of a second. In fact, the average was slightly below one-tenth of a second—a number both expert reviewers considered almost impossible.
‘The reported glances to billboards here are on the order of 10-times shorter than values reported elsewhere,’ one reviewer wrote. ‘The pattern of results certainly raises questions over the quality and legitimacy of the underlying data.’
Said the other: ‘The data reported as average glance durations are not plausible.’”