The switching off of street lights during the early hours of the morning is undermining efforts to bring down the number of road traffic accidents, the AA has said.
Local authorities are under pressure to reduce costs and ensure good environmental management, but should this really be at the expense of motorists’ safety?
AA president Edmund King has warned of an “insidious threat” being posed by the turning off of street lights.
The latest local authority to turn off the lights is Essex County Council, which is switching some street lights off from midnight to 5am.
Car accidents in bad weather on 30mph urban roads during the night time are down by 15.6% over the last five years, according to research by the AA. But it found that this dropped off to just 2% on roads where street lights have been turned off or are not present.
If you’ve been involved in a road traffic crash Accident Advice Helpline can help you with your car accident claim.
The AA said that official data shows that there has been a 21.8% fall in the number of accidents on darkened 40-mph built-up roads in wet, snowy or icy conditions where there is lighting. This is only 5.2% on roads where there is no lighting or where it has been removed, however.
Overall, accidents have gone down by 19.6% from 2007 to 2012 along town and city roads where street lights are. This figure drops to just 8.8%, however, on roads where drivers, cyclists, bikers and pedestrians travel in darkness.
The figures suggest that the turning off of street lights late at night could also result in a rise in the number of car crash compensation claims. Motorists who have had a car crash and experience neck pain and stiffness afterwards could be eligible for whiplash compensation.
Mr King said: “Worse accident rates on roads with street lights turned off or not present is an insidious threat that has crept in literally under the cover of darkness.
“Many local authorities based their risk assessment on police accident profiles for the affected roads. This had two huge drawbacks.
“Firstly and fundamentally, roads that are safe when lit can become unsafe with the lights switched off, but that is only shown when drivers, cyclists, bikers and pedestrians start to get hurt and killed.
“Secondly, with an extra casualty here and there, it is difficult to spot a creeping overall trend that might suggest something is dangerously wrong with a blackout.”