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Streetlight switch off illuminates safety fears

Monday 29th October 2012

Streetlights across Britain are being turned off as councils attempt to meet carbon emission targets, despite growing concerns from road safety campaigners (Telegraph).

The lights are being turned off on motorways and major roads, in town centres and residential streets, and on footpaths and cycle ways, as councils try to save money on energy bills and meet carbon emission targets.

The Telegraph says the move is being made despite concerns that it will lead to an increase in road accidents and crime.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph found that 3,080 miles of motorways and trunk roads in England are now completely unlit; a further 47 miles of motorway now have no lights between midnight and 5am; out of 134 councils which responded to a survey, 73% said they had switched off or dimmed some lights or were planning to; and 27 county councils have turned off or dimmed street lamps in their areas.

The vast majority of councils have chosen to turn lights off at night, at times when they say there is less need for them, while others have installed lamps which can be dimmed.

A spokesman for RoSPA said: “The presence of lighting not only reduces the risk of traffic accidents but also their severity. Surveys have shown that the public are in favour of street lighting as a way of improving road safety and that, if anything, it needs to be improved in some areas.

“There are economic and environmental reasons why some organisations may wish to reduce the amount of lighting. However there are safety reasons why lighting needs to be available.”

Paul Watters, head of roads policy at the AA, said: “We do know that most accidents happen in the dark, it’s also comforting for people, especially if they arrive back from somewhere in the night, when they have got a late train. There are also suggestions that it increases crime. So it may save money in terms of energy but then you have to look at the cost in terms of security, safety and accidents, it may actually be more.

“Motorway drivers don’t like changing situations, from light to dark and dark to light, but I don’t think we would argue for no lighting at all. It is extremely comforting for drivers, especially in bad weather.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph report.

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Hows about painting white reflective bands on trees as they did during the blackouts in the war years? Worked then.
bob craven Lancs

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)
+2

"The vast majority of councils have chosen to turn lights off at night, at times when they say there is less need for them....."!!!

I had to re-read that more than once to check I'd got it right. In my experience, lights are most useful when it is otherwise dark and this phenomenon we call 'dark' is most prevalent at night and has given rise to the well-known phrase "hours of darkness".
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)
+5

This is another wasted opportunity. Had these street-lights been switched off within scientific trials then we could be very confident of what effect the policy is having on road safety, and this would make possible an informed decision over the use of very scarce resources.

The idea of switching off street lights is a good one as the cost savings could be used for more Police or NHS nurses (or reduce the deficit) but, without scientific trials, we are basing policy on opinions and guessing what the evidence might mean.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (5) | Disagree (6)
-1

In response to Dan Campsall, perhaps he could provide data for traffic volume at night compared to day. I suspect night will have a disproportionate number of crashes, which is probably what Paul Watters meant. Still does not mean that they were caused by darkness, though.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (7)
-3

There is a tendency to wear dark clothes. For cyclist and pedestrians this is very dangerous at night. Even with the streetlights on, those wearing dark jackets and trousers or skirts are very difficult to see. I myself prefer dimming of the light (if possible dynamic (on demand) streetlights) combined with efforts of the people themselves to be visible!
Anita Heijkamp, Netherlands

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)
+8

Difficult to separate darkness as a single factor - drink, drugs and tiredness are more likely to contribute to night time crashes.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (7)
0

Paul Watters comment that most accidents happen in the dark is intriguing, from 2004-2011 73% of collisions were reported as occurring in daylight.
Dan Campsall, Banbury

Agree (17) | Disagree (0)
+17