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Darkness at the edge of town?

Local authorities are switching off sections of street lighting in their towns and cities between the hours of midnight and 5.30am in a bid to save money.

This means that drivers suffer as their eyes adjust from brightly lit areas to sections of road which are in total darkness.

This has led to a few tragedies.

A case in Milton Keynes saw a driver hit and fatally injure a pedestrian on a stretch of road where the lights had been switched off. This led to a reversal on the decision to turn off sections of street lighting as there has not been the appropriate risk assessment.

Milton Keynes is now looking at ways at which lights can be dimmed rather then turned off completely.

But do the sums add up? Converting lights so that they can be dimmed or switched off at varying times is not cheap. Hertfordshire is spending £4.5million on changing its lights – and will not see any savings for four years.

Chelmsford is another town looking to savings, with its street light switch off aimed at shaving roughly 20% from its £4.5m annual energy bill.

Critics of these schemes claim that these actions would not only lead to a rise in traffic accidents but also an increase in vehicle theft and burglaries.

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents say street lights play a crucial role in road safety.

Its road safety manager Duncan Vernon commented: “Driving outside of daylight hours is more dangerous and pedestrians and vulnerable road users suffer from decreased visibility without street lights.

Dark Street

“We urge councils to carefully assess proposals to switch off lights and be confident that doing so will not lead to an increase in injuries or personal safety issues.”

The switch-off is not limited to towns and cities as 70% of the motorway network is now unlit at night.

Sections of the M1, M2, M27, M4, M48, M5, M54, M58, M6, M65 and M66 are now unlit from midnight.

This includes a 15-mile stretch of the M1 just north of Luton to the outskirts of Milton Keynes, one of the heaviest-used sections of any British road. 

The Highways Agency is planning further blackouts claiming the full-switch off contributed to a £400,000 saving and reduced carbon emissions in 2011.

Some may feel that councils have a right to look at opportunities to save money. Local authorities may argue that statistically roads are still safe when there is reduced lighting.

But how important is it for drivers to feel safe? And does how you feel affect your driving – do drivers become hesitant and unpredictable?

Are you worried about an increase in vehicle accidents and theft? Would you like lower tax bills or better lit roads in your town and motorways?

Let us know in the comments below.



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