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Road safety in jeopardy as council switch off street lights

21 October 2008

Road safety is at risk and crime levels could rise as an increasing number of local authorities switch off street lights.

Rather than switching off streetlights the AA feels that some local authorities should be switching off their own office lights at night. Councils are switching off street lights to both save money and reduce their carbon footprint.

Street lighting, says the motoring organisation, can improve safety for drivers, riders, and pedestrians and deter street crime.

An AA study shows that driving outside of daylight hours is more dangerous - only a quarter of all travel by car drivers is between the hours of 7pm and 8am, yet this period accounts for 40% of fatal and serious injuries.

A Department for Transport study found 63.8% agreed that ‘improved street lighting would lead to fewer accidents on the roads’.

On urban main roads a 30% reduction in night time injury accidents can be expected following a significant improvement to very poor lighting. Low illumination is a major contributory factor in the night-time fatality rate.

On motorways, 2.6% of accidents are fatal where street lighting is present, compared to 4.3% of accidents where it is not. On built up roads, 1.3% of accidents are fatal where street lighting is present, compared to 1.9% where it is not. On non-built up roads 3.1% of accidents are fatal in lit conditions, rising to 4.9% in areas without street lights

AA president Edmund King said: “Turning off street lights to save money or reduce CO2 may backfire in terms of increased accidents and crime. In the dark drivers’ reactions tend to be slower and stopping distances longer. Street lighting can reduce the risk of crashes and their severity. The public are in favour of street lighting as a way of improving road safety.”