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Electronic billboards -- nuisance or revolution?

   Call it a sign of the times.

   With more than 1,000 electronic billboards standing by busy highways around the country, the TV-like screens are becoming commonplace.

   Starting as soon as April, Lamar Outdoor Advertising plans to flip the "on" switch for five LED billboards around Western New York highways.

   With their static, non-moving images, they look much like conventional billboards. Until the picture changes and a new ad takes its place on the screen, an event that happens every eight seconds.

   The image change isn't a distraction to drivers, the industry says, but billboard critics aren't convinced. They note that major studies so far have been backed by the outdoor advertising industry.

   Not everyone thinks the technology is inevitable. Knoxville, Tenn., has put it on hold while it ponders regulations. Closer to home, Orchard Park fought a costly legal battle to keep out conventional billboards, leaving it free of electronic ones.

   Do the signs attract the eye more than a regular billboard? Or are drivers too busy snacking, texting and fiddling with the radio to notice? 

   -- Fred O. Williams



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