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March 3rd, 2010:

Now the NYT wants to ban billboards too [distracted driving]

2008-11-16 Electronic billboard at Rome-Hilliard Rd. & I-70 on the far west side of Columbus, OhioNot content merely to fear monger about the immanent national threat posed by motorists who chat on their cell phone, the New York Times has decided to take on a new bogyman: electronic billboards.

From the New York Times:

Safety advocates who worry about the dangers of distracted driving have a new concern beyond cellphones and gadget-laden dashboards: digital roadside billboards.

These high-tech billboards marry the glow of Times Square with the immediacy of the Internet. Images change every six to eight seconds, so advertisers can flash timely messages — like the latest headlines, coffee deals at dawn, a cheeseburger at lunchtime or even the song playing on a radio station at that moment.

The billboard industry asserts there is no research indicating they cause crashes, and notes that the signs do not use video or animation.

But to critics, these ever-changing, bright billboards are “television on a stick” and give drivers, many of them already calling and texting, yet another reason to take their eyes off the road.

Abby Dart, executive director of Scenic Michigan, a nonprofit group trying to block construction of new digital billboards in the state, calls the signs “weapons of mass distraction” and says they can be more dangerous than phones.

As someone who has spent entirely too much time driving across Ohio, I can tell you that at least in the nations farm belt, large, electronic billboards are not so much as a distraction as a safety feature. After all, what else is there to keep you from falling asleep after 100 miles of cornfields?

That myth about how Coke dehydrates you

logoYou know how whenever you’re thirsty and reach for an ice cold refreshing soft drink someone invariably tells you that soda will dehydrate you or only make you thirstier? Yeah, well it turns out that is total BS.

From the New York Times:

It was long thought that caffeinated beverages were diuretics, but studies reviewed last year found that people who consumed drinks with up to 550 milligrams of caffeine produced no more urine than when drinking fluids free of caffeine. Above 575 milligrams, the drug was a diuretic.

So even a Starbucks grande, with 330 milligrams of caffeine, will not send you to a bathroom any sooner than if you drank 16 ounces of pure water. Drinks containing usual doses of caffeine are hydrating and, like water, contribute to the body’s daily water needs.

A 12-oz can of Coke has 35mg of caffeine. So you’d need to drink 16 cans (1.5 gallons) in order to ingest enough caffeine for it to be the slightest bit dehydrating. Of course if you managed to drink that much Coke before any of the caffeine wore off you would be a champion–so you probably wouldn’t need to worry about little things like dehydration anyway.

The soda tax ad war [video]

A few weeks ago Governor Patterson proposed slapping a hefty tax on soda as a way to help address New York’s massive budget deficit.  A similar national proposal died last year after it proved about as popular as canceling Christmas. In New York, a recent poll found 60 percent of people oppose a tax on soda.

But the food-police types—who go by the name “Alliance for a Healthier New York”— seem to think they have shot at getting the tax passed. And to advance their cause, they’ve been on the air with a new television spot.

And here is the anti-tax ad from Americans Against Food Taxes.

As much as I hate to admit it, I think the pro-tax folks have a much better commercial. The mom in the no-soda-tax ad comes off as really angry. She kind of seems like that neighborhood mom that all of the kids on the block are scared of. The result, of course, is that she is a very poor messenger for a popular cause. At least that is my take.

Which ad do you think is more effective?

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