Don't be dazzled by digital billboards

The March 6 article, "Video billboards: Don't look, drivers," raises important issues about the safety of these giant TV screens in the sky. (I was a source for and was quoted in the article.) Public entities would be wise to enact moratoriums on digital billboards until their safety is conclusively proven. Otherwise, they may find themselves with a serious public-safety problem and significant liability issues.

Digital billboards are brighter than standard signs, especially at night, and their messages change every six to eight seconds. It is impossible to argue that the brightest object in the landscape with endlessly rotating messages does not draw the eye for more than two seconds, the safe limit for drivers.

It's no surprise that the Outdoor Advertising Association of America (OAAA) cites the Virginia Tech study in defense of digital billboards: The research says that driver behavior doesn't change measurably in the presence of attention-getting billboards. But the study was commissioned by the Foundation for Outdoor Advertising Research and Education, which is administered by the OAAA.

Public safety alerts are a vital tool for law enforcement, but traditional media and existing official highway signs are available to communicate those messages.

The safety and aesthetic quality of the community should not be sacrificed to the interests of the outdoor advertising industry.
Kevin E. Fry
Washington President, Scenic America

Did Ayn Rand have the answer?

In response to Mark Skousen's March 6 Opinion piece, " 'Atlas Shrugged' – 50 years later," about Ayn Rand's famous novel: Mr. Skousen claims that Ms. Rand's purpose is to eschew feelings and only act on logic. Wrong. One of objectivism's hallmarks is a tribute to the ancient Greek ideal of mind-body harmony in which reason and emotion are not perpetually at war, but can, and should, act in concert.

Skousen also claims that Rand misrepresents "authentic" capitalism. No. It is Rand who finally gave capitalism a proper definition, a proper moral foundation.
Blair N. Schofield
New Britain, Conn.

In his Opinion piece on Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged," Mark Skousen accurately points out many aspects of Ms. Rand's philosophy, but he misunderstands objectivist ethics. To be selfish is to value that which is beneficial to one's life. That includes respect for other producers and all rational people. The selfish way to deal with others is as voluntary traders of values on the premise of mutual gain. Selfishness doesn't mean pillaging and destruction. Rand made this clear in her nonfiction writings, especially "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal" and "The Virtue of Selfishness."
Ralph C. Whaley
Barron, Wis.

In response to Mark Skousen's Opinion piece on the philosophy behind Ayn Rand's famous novel: I read "Atlas Shrugged" about 10 years ago and was inspired by the pursuit of individuality and personal greatness. I spent many years chasing this idea of greatness as found in unapologetic individual achievement.

What I discovered, however, was an emptiness and loneliness that came from not paying attention to the things that at the time felt more like distractions: family, friends, and time for spiritual connection. I also read Ms. Rand's other books and her biography. At the end of it all, even though she does bring out an idea that I agree with – that we all need individual freedom – what I also realized was that she, too, did not seem very happy.
Diane Dandeneau

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