Motorists plunged into darkness as street lights are turned off to save energy

The Highways Agency has revealed that they are turning off the lights on some main roads and motorways to save money and reduce carbon emissions, and amazingly turning a blind eye to warnings from police and scientists that it will seriously affect safety.

The Highways Agency said it will turn off lighting on stretches of motorway between 12am and 5am, and this will also take place at “a small number of other locations” around England from March this year.

But police and scientists have warned that turning off the lights will impact on safety in these areas. Research in scientific journal The Cochrane Library found that street lighting reduced the number of fatal crashes by 77 per cent and other collisions by between 32 and 55 per cent.

Lancashire County Council, which owns the M65, has proposed switching off lights at all times of day, except for those at junctions, in order to save £65,000 a year and reduce carbon emissions by 300 tonnes. The move was sharply criticised by Lancashire Police which said it would be “a retrograde step in relation to motorway safety”. A spokeswoman for the Highways Agency refused to disclose which areas were being considered or explain how the agency could fulfil its promise to carry out a risk assessment of each site within a matter of weeks.

Neil Greig, assistant director of the IAM (Institute of Advanced Motorists) Motoring Trust, said more research into the effects of the changes was needed and that the Highways Agency needed to be “more innovative” in its plans. “Why not use road-studs that charge up in daylight and glow at night or generate energy through wind or solar power in more remote areas?” He added that good white lining and top quality reflective signs would be needed in areas where lights were switched off.

Whilst we wrangle on how to best preserve energy throughout the UK perhaps it would be a good idea to concentrate on the power usage in urban areas, where hitting the switch inside office blocks and private residences can quickly lower energy costs and carbon emissions, without inciting safety concerns.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, embraced the latest research and stressed that real road lighting is far more important than people realise. “Aside from road safety, street lights also reduce crime, fear of crime and accidents for those on foot as well as in a vehicle”.

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