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In 2013, the City of Toronto commissioned a company named CIMA to look at the safety impacts of digital billboards and driver distraction. CIMA produced three reports, relying heavily on the prior work of Jerry Wachtel.
Wachtel is one of the most respected experts in North America regarding the role of cognitive impairments on the the role of safe driving performance. He has over 40 years of experience in the field of highway safety and was the lead author of the first U.S. study on digital billboards, done for the US Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).
In July 2014, Wachtel conducted his own review of the CIMA reports and found numerous errors and omissions.
He describes some of their conclusions to be "clearly untrue" and describes research methods used by CIMA to be "puzzling at best, and potentially of serious concern".
He also that states that the reports have "serious issues that call into question the thoroughness of the CIMA work."
"The authors begin their review of the literature with a lengthy discussion of a report that I conducted on behalf of NCHRP. Although it is understandable that it is difficult to summarize in 20 pages what I wrote in nearly 200, I am nonetheless concerned that CIMA’s summary, and their conclusions drawn from my report are, in several cases, seriously inadequate and often erroneous."
These findings are stunning considering that City Staff, City Councillors and Metrolinx have all used the CIMA reports as evidence that digital billboards are indeed safe.