RAC Cars News


New Study Contradicts Previous Street Light Findings

By raccars Published

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Motoring organisations are responding with concern to the release of new research data, suggesting that road safety is not compromised by switching off street lights at night. Local authorities have previously been criticised for switching off street lights at night, to save money.

Previous studies have pointed to an increase in road deaths and serious injuries in areas where street lights have been turned off at night, with coroners in a number of cases blaming the lack of lighting as the specific cause in fatal accidents.

However, researchers at London's University College have now completed a study of 62 local authority areas over 14 years, using different street lighting policies, including turning lights out at night, keeping them on all night and measures between the two. In the same study, the researchers also analysed crime statistics in these areas from 2010-2013, to see if street lighting showed any effect upon crime rates, looking in particular at crimes which commonly occur at night, such as burglary, vehicle theft, sexual assault and violent crimes.

The report concluded that levels of street lighting had no effect, adverse or otherwise, upon crime figures in England and Wales. The same conclusion was drawn regarding road accident rates.

Of the 62 local authorities involved in the research, 8% switched off street lighting at night on a permanent basis, 30% used street lighting at night part of the time and 40% used dimmed street lighting. Fifty two of the local authorities had replaced the classic street lights with white LED versions.

Councils spend £300 million on street lighting annually, so it has become an obvious area for cash strapped local authorities to try and save money. The University College London report effectively gives councils the go ahead to cut down on street lighting, without the risk of an increase in road accidents or crime levels. But it but did come with an advisory that any changes to current street lighting programmes must be considered very carefully.

Motoring organisations have criticised the report, pointing to research of their own, which has indicated the absence of street lighting as a contributory factor in a number of road deaths. Further inquests are underway which could also point the finger of blame at a lack of street lighting in causing road deaths.

Applied statistics expert, Professor Kevin McConway, of the Open University, suggested that the validity of the report should be questioned because of the limited size of the sample group used - only 62 of 174 local authorities were included in the survey.

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