Streetlights and road deaths

Street light switch-off study contradicts coroner and DfT evidence

Street light switch-off study contradicts coroner and DfT evidence

Street light switch-off study contradicts coroner and DfT evidence

A study by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine into the impact of council street light switch-off policies contradicts the growing death toll attributed by coroners according to the AA.

The AA is extremely surprised by the study’s conclusion that there is no evidence of a link between street lights being switched off and road deaths and other casualties.

Our own analysis of inquest findings uncovered six road deaths from 2009 to 2013 where coroners said the switching off of street lights had been a contributory factor. Police crash investigators said the drivers had little or no chance of avoiding the collisions.

At the same time, Department for Transport statistics show that significant reductions in night-time accidents along roads with lighting have been stunted on unlit town and city streets.

Possible 50% further increase

Incidents in 2014 present the strong possibility of a 50% increase on top of the death toll so far:

  • An inquest this May confirmed that a council decision to switch off street lights contributed to the death of a Wiltshire woman in September 2014.
  • The outcome of an inquest into an Essex man killed in December while walking home from a Christmas party is also awaited. Another man had been knocked over just 40 minutes earlier on the same road - police then demanded that street lighting along that route be turned back on.
  • An inquest into the deaths of two men on a blacked-out section of the M65 will involve the coroner asking road authorities why his warnings, after a previous crash related to the switching off of road lighting, was ignored.
  • The importance of street lighting was emphasised during last week’s inquest into the death of a female teenager, hit in the dark by four cars and a double-decker bus. The coroner called for street lights to be installed on the road where it happened.

Five year fall

Latest Department for Transport figures show that, over the past five years, improved road safety has seen accidents in the dark on built-up roads where there is street lighting fall 18.6% overall and 24.0% in the wet, snow and ice. But, where street lights are off or not present, the reduction is 12.0% overall and 16.7% in bad weather.

Faster roads

Faster roads stand out as far worse. Since 2008, night-time accidents on street-lit 40mph sections have dropped 24.1% overall and 30.4% in wet, snow or icy conditions, but are down only 10.4% on both counts where the street lights were off or not present.

Drivers cannot afford the risk of not lighting the road ahead if it might result in killing or injuring pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable people

Edmund King, AA president

Not enough time to react

“Although part-night lighting on 30mph roads has yet to show a problem in road casualties, it is the 40mph and faster roads that are the problem. Crash experts say there just isn’t enough time to react, even when driving at the speed limit with the headlights on.” says Edmund King, the AA’s president.

Full beam

“For that reason, the AA calls for street lights to be switched on along 40mph roads. It is also telling its members to drive on full beam on any residential road where street lights have been switched off, except where they might dazzle other road users. Drivers cannot afford the risk of not lighting the road ahead if it might result in killing or injuring pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable people.”