Motorway lighting switch off sparks safety concerns

15.32 | 10 August 2011 | | 6 comments

Lights are to be turned off on one of Britain’s busiest motorway stretches, raising fears from motoring groups that safety could be put at risk (Telegraph).

The Highways Agency has unveiled plans for the switch-off between midnight and 5am on the M1 between junction 10 at Luton and junction 13 at Milton Keynes, reports the Telegraph.

The news comes as the DfT looks to cut costs as its contribution to the Government’s austerity programme. The Highways Agency says that less than half of England’s 1,800 miles of motorway are lit, but the AA was has voiced concern over the choice of this 15-mile stretch, which will also be turned into a managed motorway with variable speed limits where drivers will also be allowed to use the hard shoulder at busy times.

Andrew Howard, the AA’s head of road safety, said: “We think there will be a number of operational issues. Where you can and can’t be is defined by signals and without lights there is a greater chance that people will make a mistake.”

The DfT has been keen to cut running costs and turning off the lights has been tested on parts of the M2, M4, M5 and M27. Switching the lights off is also seen as having the additional advantage of cutting carbon emissions.

Similar initiatives have been tried by a number of local authorities on local roads with mixed results, and, according to the Telegraph, many other councils have opted for installing equipment which dims lights rather than switches them off altogether.

The HA’s Derek Turner has defended the move, saying: “Since 2009 we’ve switched lighting off between the hours of midnight and 5am on 14 carefully-selected stretches of motorways and evidence so far indicates that this hasn’t had an impact on safety.

“In March this year we also began permanently switching off motorway lights at three sites.

"This is not about wishing to remove all lights from the motorway network. It’s about carefully identifying the locations where, under the revised guidelines, we would no longer install lighting.

“The money saved could then be used for other measures on the strategic road network where it would have a more significant safety benefit and potentially save more lives.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph report


Comment on this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Report a reader comment

Order by Latest first | Oldest first | Highest rated | Lowest rated

    The figure referred to by David, Suffolk is a bit long in the tooth now (dates back to my early days in the RS industry) and was a generalised figure for all roads. Clearly lighting will have a greater impact on safety on roads of a poor geometric standard (too hilly & bendy) than it will for a modern, high-standard motorway (not forgetting the importance of not meeting anyone coming the other way – usually!). The report that looked at safety and other implications for the MNSO Project is at and makes a clear statement about the safety implications.

    Mike Mounfield, Birmingham
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I am behind these turn off schemes.

    The time of the switch off means that traffic flows are reduced enough so that it impacts relatively few vehicles. Sections of motorway are chosen which have low collision rates to begin with, such as straight sections, which typically have only rear end shunt type collisions resulting from congestion and cars have lights.

    The best benefit is the reduced light pollution. I live near one of these trial areas I have noticed the difference. The reduced glow from all the motorway lighting makes the stars and night sky allot more visible.

    Adam, Hants
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I can kind of see the idea behind switching the lights off over night, but at such a busy section of road?!

    The only way I can see this making sense is if its some sort of;
    “We’ll turn off the lights at a busy stretch of road and if accident figures don’t change – our point is proven and we’ll switch more off”.

    Which is insane!
    You don’t play with people’s lives to prove a point…


    Robert, Essex
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Like David, Suffolk, I was under the impression that only the high incident sections of Motorways are lit.
    We are constantly hearing about the cost to society of each fatal crash. The last I heard was £1.7m. If turning off the lights causes just one fatality how long would the lights need to be off to re-coupe that amount. Yes I know all that money doesn’t come from the same budget but what happened to duty of care.
    Even with headlights on, and we all know there are a lot of drivers who run on side lights on lit roads, there will be a sudden shock when the lights go out. Few drivers will think, “Oh, it’s one minute to midnight. I’d better get ready for the lights to go out.”

    David Clark, North Yorkshire
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Are they turning off the lights so drivers can’t see the potholes?

    Dave, Leeds
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    I was under the impression (it’s a figure that remains in my memory, but I have no knowledge of its authenticity) that lighting a section of major road achieves a 30% reduction in crashes. Obviously a 30% reduction in a very small number is hardly worth having, so only roads with a poor crash history were lit. Now they are saying that turning off lights does not seem to have any effect. Both statements cannot be correct, so are they just twisting the truth to justify switching off lights and saving cash? We need to know what is going on, rather than blindly believing whatever the Govt. chooses to push out to the media.

    David, Suffolk
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.