We all take street lights for granted, especially during the long winter months. They automatically turn on when it starts to get dark and they guide us when we are driving or walking along the streets. So how would you feel if your Council suddenly turned them off?
Thousands of streets across Britain are being left in darkness as Councils cut back on street lighting to save money. Almost three quarters of Councils have already reduced street lighting in their area, or are considering doing so, under a policy called Part Night Lighting (PNL)
The blackouts are being rolled out across thousands of streets in rural areas, suburbs and city centres in almost every county of the UK, despite concerns from residents and the police that the move will lead to an increase in accidents and crime.
New technologies such as LEDs and solar power are being explored by many Councils but these options are still relatively expensive compared to the introduction of PNL. The Councils are also saying that the move will help to reduce carbon emissions for street lighting and help them to meet their climate change targets. The main reason is undoubtedly financial: Britain’s 7.5 million street lights cost an estimated £500 million per year to run. The schemes to reduce street lighting involve either switching some off altogether or installing new lamps that are automatically dimmed or turned off during “quiet” periods late at night usually between the hours of midnight to 5am.
So what are the potential dangers?
Research has revealed that crime, in particular burglaries, increases when the lights are switched off. Also the research has shown that road traffic accidents increase by 20% in areas where PNL is in operation. It is obvious that without street lights the potential for car accidents increases, even with the use of headlights. If the road is uneven or there is a sharp bend or there is a pedestrian or animal in the road these hazards will not be seen clearly in the dark. The AA have said that 4.9% of road traffic accidents on unlit roads are fatal, compared to 3.1% of accidents on well-lit roads.
With limited vision pedestrians are also at risk. The potential for tripping accidents will clearly increase in areas where PNL is in operation. Uneven pavements, objects left out on the street eg wheelie bins, bags of rubbish and skips are all possible hazards on a dark street.
PNL may well save Councils thousands of pounds but that money could quickly turn into compensation payments being awarded to people who have injured themselves on the streets at night in areas that were previously well lit.
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