It’s a dark time for drivers in the East Midlands as a new study reveals that almost three quarters (72%) of the street lights across the region are switched off or dimmed through all or part of the night.
A new interactive map created by car insurance comparison website Confused.com shows that 211,299 lights are switched off or dimmed during certain hours of the night. Of these 788 are left switched off all night, while 51,501 are turned off for part of the night. A further 159,010 are dimmed during the night hours. That’s according to new Freedom of Information data obtained from the region’s local councils.
This raises concern that motorists are forced to drive in dark and gloomy conditions, without a fully-clear view of the road ahead. Driving at night is an already-chaotic experience for motorists, who face the challenge of blinding headlights and near-invisible surroundings, without the extra pressure of having to navigate through the darkness.
Although, it isn’t just motorists in the East Midlands who face the darkness. In total, more than two million street lights across Britain are switched off or dimmed at night. There are almost 4.3 million street lights installed across the country, of which 14,456 are switched off all night, while 494,109 are turned off for part of the night. A further 1.5 million are dimmed during night hours.
For a full view of how many regions are plunged into darkness, see the Lights Out interactive map click here
While there is no denying that some street lamps could have a damaging effect on the environment, which encourages councils to reduce usage overnight, it cannot be ignored that there can also be serious consequences for drivers.
Further research by Confused.com found that almost four in five (79%) UK motorists have driven at night while street the lights were partially or completely switched off. And worryingly, almost one in six (16%) of these have had an accident or near miss while the lights were completely switched off, and one in seven (14%) had a similar experience while the lights were partially out. And this could be attributed to the fact that more than three in five (62%) of the motorists who have driven in these conditions say the visibility of the road was compromised, while more than half (55%) said the road ahead wasn’t very clear.
However, it isn’t just motorists who benefit from well-lit roads, as darker areas also increase the risk to pedestrians. In fact, three in 10 (30%) UK drivers think it is unclear why councils switch off street lights at night in heavily pedestrianised areas. A further two in five (41%) don’t think councils should switch off street lights as it puts pedestrians at risk.
And while dimming street lights may seem like a reasonable middle-ground by providing light to drivers while reducing the amount of energy being used, it seems that this still a risk to road users. More than two fifths (42%) of UK drivers have driven along a dark road where the street lights were dimmed, almost a sixth (16%) being involved in an accident or near miss. And even the slight light offered by dimmed lamps clearly isn’t enough for motorists. More than half (56%) of those who have driven in through dimmed street lights said the visibility of the road was still compromised, while half (50%) found the road wasn’t very clear.
It’s not just a murky vision which is knocking drivers’ confidence, as some also find it difficult to drive in general in darker conditions. More than one in four (28%) UK motorists admit they get confused while driving in the dark as they cannot see the road clearly, while a further one in four (25%) cannot read the signs clearly. Some even feel somewhat disorientated, with a third (32%) admitting other cars’ headlights make their vision unclear. And it seems the best solution to help drivers is better-lit roads. More than four fifths (83%) of motorists say they would feel less confused about driving in the dark if roads were better lit.
Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, says: “Street lights are installed for a reason, and that is to help drivers be fully aware of their surroundings and offer protection to pedestrians. And by switching these off in the East Midlands and across the rest of Britain, drivers really are left in the dark. Our interactive map shows just how many regions are plunged into complete darkness at night.
“Not being able to see the road clearly is a very daunting and confusing challenge drivers face. It is important they are extra vigilant and take extra care when driving in blacked-out areas as surroundings may not be very easy to see. We have compiled our top safety tips for driving in the dark, which could fill drivers with more confidence before setting off at night.”