Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

Not simply a hippie song (blogging trend? I hope not) but a problem along Boston’s highways according to today’s Boston Globe.

The Federal Highway Administration found the problem signs during its first inspection of Massachusetts’ outdoor advertising program in more than a decade, and reported its findings last week.

As part of beautification efforts that date to the 1960s, federal and state rules limit billboards and other signs along roads funded at least in part with US tax dollars. For instance, signs can’t be too close together, in order to reduce visual clutter and avoid distracting drivers. [emphasis mine]

Boston Globe photo.

The crime here is not attempting to sell unsuspecting motorists crappy beer, but that the owner may not have the proper permit for the sign.

Boston Globe photo.

This one? Too big sayeth the Feds.

Boston Globe photo.

Pictured is another billboard on the Herald building. Federal authorities recommended the state tell Purcell his previous permit may have been granted in error and to also research the law to figure out how to handle the situation. Boston Herald spokeswoman Gwen Gage declined comment.

This one appears to be the state’s fault. But the owner must now pay to rectify the situation if the state deems this is true.

As the mother of teenagers in the age of ubiquitous digital devices, I understand that it is dangerous to talk on the phone and ludicrous to text while driving. Gawking at signs while driving is, indeed, a very bad idea if one wants to keep from injuring oneself, another human being, or totaling one’s car. Aesthetically speaking, I prefer to travel the scenic Merritt Parkway through Connecticut any day of the week to the crowded hallway of “Gentlemen’s Club” signs along 95.

The question is how far the government is willing to punish drivers in an attempt to promote the general welfare? How far is the government willing to punish property owners in an attempt to ensure that drivers aren’t distracted?

Where does the government’s peremptory strike against distracted driving prompts end?

At what point does living in the US mean leaving independent judgment behind?

I recommend watching the video for the hippie song I linked to in the first sentence.  Almost all of the signs are either signs protected by the First Amendment or regulatory signs, and boy, are they distracting! While I don’t know which agency would win the battle of conflicting government agencies, I do know who loses. 

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