Figures published by The Times indicate that casualties have risen by 20% in the past four years on roads where street lights have been turned off.
The Times’ report (content only available to Times’ subscribers) shows that in 2011/12, 324 more people were killed or seriously injured in crashes at night on roads where street lights were off, than in the previous year. Deaths and serious injuries have risen by 39% and 27% respectively on roads where around 750,000 streetlights are being switched off or dimmed down to either save money or reduce emissions.
The Times says the figures are “raising fears that cost-cutting and carbon emissions targets are claiming lives”.
In an article on the same subject, the AA said its research shows that night-time accidents in bad weather on well-lit 30mph urban roads have fallen by 15.6% over the past five years, but where street lights have been switched off or are not present the fall is just 2%.
The AA also says that official statistics show that, on darkened 40 mph built-up roads, accidents in the wet, snow or ice are down 21.8% where there is lighting, but only 5.2% where there is not. Overall, from 2007 to 2012, the AA says a 19.6% reduction in road accidents along town and city roads where street lights were on "shrank to 8.8% where drivers, cyclists, bikers and pedestrians travelled in darkness".
Talking to the Daily Mail, Edmund King AA president, said: “Worse accident rates on roads with street lights turned off or not present is an insidious threat that has crept in literally under the cover of darkness.
“Many local authorities based their risk assessment on police accident profiles for the affected roads. This had two huge drawbacks.
“Firstly and fundamentally, roads that are safe when lit can become unsafe with the lights switched off, but that is only shown when drivers, cyclists, bikers and pedestrians start to get hurt and killed.
“Secondly, with an extra casualty here and there, it is difficult to spot a creeping overall trend that might suggest something is dangerously wrong with a blackout.”