Destiny's Bridge, a documentary about Lakewood,s Tent City premiered last night at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ. The film focused on the efforts of Minister Steve Brigham to build a campus for the homeless in Ocean County to help rebuild their lives. It focused solely on the challenges that the homeless camp faces. After the film there was Question and answer session with the lawyer for tent city discussing the legal battles ahead to make sure adequate housing is provided for the residents. Jack Ballo discussed the need for politicians to take a lead in providing shelter for the homeless. Mayor Akerman was interviewed in the film discussing his efforts to solve the housing crisis for tent city residents.
Most residents agree that 40 foot high LED signs that are 30 feet wide dispersed throughout Lakewood are a bad idea. We established that no other town in NJ allows signs of that magnitude. We know that there is strong evidence that they can cause accidents, they are an eyesore, and will surely be another point of contention from surrounding towns already looking at Lakewood in a negative light.
So the big question is of course, why would the Township allow this? And furthermore who is benefitting from these signs, and how was the permission given to one specific individual?
As we now know, the individual benefitting from the revenue of these signs will be Lazer Hasenfeld, owner of The Lakewood Scoop. This of course explains why our committee would even consider such a ridiculous idea. If the person asking for approvals for LED signs is the person you need when you want to promote an agenda, you try to oblige. If you want to make sure he will get video of you painting over graffiti with the police, even though you were only there for two minutes, if you want him to post an article about how you saved the town money, no matter how negligible, or what a true patriotic mayor you seem to be, you will trade the safety and beauty of your town for that benefit.
So now we know why they listened to the owner of The Lakewood Scoop. How did they make sure he was the only one able to get the approvals for all ten signs?
The ordinance was read as usual with no publicity and very few people knew about it. By the time the second reading was approved on July 25th, Mr. Hasenfeld already had all the engineering plans and sites ready along with the approval forms to be submitted the next morning. At 8:01 am on July 26th ten forms were submitted to the inspection Department.
This latest little seemingly insignificant matter is a perfect example of how everything gets done in Lakewood to benefit a specific individual at the expense of what is best for Lakewood. We have allowed our indifference to give Carte Blanche reckless behavior to a few individuals that weigh their own needs above the needs of our town. Their concern for self promotion and constant bargaining to ensure that they get the votes they need to remain on the Committee is a detriment to our town. The Zoning and Planning of Lakewood has become one big joke, where it doesn't matter what you are proposing but who you know and what you have to hold against them.
The first reaction most people have when they hear that Lakewood will permit ten new large digital signs is "There will be so many accidents". We all know that driving in Lakewood is a challenge as it is. Add the distraction of signs that change on a regular basis, and a whole new variable is added into the mix. Driver distraction is already an issue in our modern world of cellphones and texting. Now imagine a flashing sign vying for your attention as you approach an intersection on New Hampshire street. As you finish reading one ad which takes seconds away from your focus on the road, another ad pops up begging to be read. This scenario will be all too common and will cause a diversion that can easily last twice as long as a normal sign might cause.
There were studies done in 2010 that seemed to say that there is no increase in traffic accidents due to the placement of digital signs on roads. However that study was funded by the corporations that own digital signs. Recent studies in 2013 have found up to a 35 percent increase of accidents in areas that have digital signs.
The study was conducted by the Swedish Transport Administration found that these digital billboards take a driver’s eyes off the road for more than 2 seconds at a time.
The results of the study has been published in the Traffic Injury Prevention journal. The researchers found that these digital billboards take a driver’s attention away from the road for much longer than other highway signs that are installed on the road. These billboards flash frequently changing messages and images, and are designed to be very attractive.
In the United States also, car accident lawyers have found a lot of concern over the distractions arising from digital billboards. In California, several cities have banned the use of these billboards altogether.
These billboards are designed with flashing messages that are aimed at luring a driver’s attention, and forcing him to look at the billboard. Many other studies have also found that these billboards cause drivers to look away from the road for more than just a few seconds. The Swedish study finds that these digital signs draw attention away from the road for more than 2 seconds.
A similar study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute back in 2006, found that any activity that takes a motorist’s attention away from the road for more than 2 seconds, can increase his risk of being involved in an accident. That study also found that as many as 80% of all car accidents occur because the driver was not paying attention to the road within 3 seconds of the accident.
The proof is more than just anecdotal and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know that there will be an increase in accidents due to these signs.
Perhaps that is part of the plan. The Lakewood Scoop gets readers looking to see the latest accidents in town. Now they will be able to cause more of them and increase readership and in turn ad revenue.
Now the only question is why our committee that is entrusted to protect us would allow this dangerous plan to move forward.
We will deal with that in part three.