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'God Bless The USA' is among the messages that appear on the scrolling LEDsign outside Mid-City Pawn on Sixth Avenue.
Daily photo by Gary Lloyd
"God Bless The USA" is among the messages that appear on the scrolling LEDsign outside Mid-City Pawn on Sixth Avenue.

LED signs legal under city code

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com 340-2442

Take a drive along any of Decatur's main thoroughfares and you will notice them.

Multi-colored, electronic signs and billboards scrolling various advertisements, messages and even pictures.

Made possible through the technology of light-emitting diodes, the new signs use thousands of tiny light bulbs to create eye-catching advertisements. While they are popular advertising tools for local businesses, some complain they distract drivers.

On Sixth Avenue in Decatur, drivers can easily spot them. Walgreens Pharmacy, Precision Tune and a large billboard belonging to Lamar Advertising are among the most recent to add LED signs.

At Mid-City Pawn on Sixth Avenue, the sign scrolls through at least 13 different messages and backgrounds, one of them instructing drivers to buckle their seat belts.

But according to the American Automobile Association, LED signs are one of a number of new distractions drivers face on today's fast-paced, overcrowded roadways.

Of the 139,742 accidents that occurred in Alabama last year, more than half were related to driving distractions, AAA reports.

"Anything that takes your attention off the road is a distraction and can potentially lead to an accident," said Clay Ingram a spokesman for AAA.

Despite the complaints, the signs are not illegal.

While the Decatur city code forbids signs deemed to cause a traffic hazard, it makes a specific exception for LED signs — listed as "changeable copy signs." Restrictions in the code state the signs may not display animation, flashing lights or change copy more than once every five seconds.

According to District 4 Councilman Ronny Russell, also a Planning Commission member, the exception for LED signs is intended to help local businesses. He said he was not aware of any complaints lodged against the signs.

"If it's something we need to look at, we're certainly willing to do that," he said.

In the meantime, the signs are expected to continue selling, some for as little as $100 or as much as $10,000, according to www.led-signs.com.

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