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Streetlight switch-offs do not increase crime and accidents

No need for this: If you believe the university findings, then protests like this one to keep the lights on in Essex are unnecessary.

Switching off streetlights increases road accidents and crime. Oh yes it does. Oh no it doesn’t.

It’s a raging debate often characterised by shoot-from-the-hip emotion, but the latest roar comes from the erudite halls of academia.

Score one for ‘no it doesn’t’. The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, partnering with University College London, has declared that ‘switching off streetlights at night does not increase car crashes and crime.’ 

A team from the two universities studied the impact of turning off streetlights in England and Wales, where many local authorities have been darkening the streets from midnight until dawn in an effort to save on electricity bills. The switch offs have outraged residents in many localities who fear for their own safety and that of those around them.

But after studying 14 years of data from 62 local authorities, the researchers said that people have nothing to worry about.

‘Local authorities can safely reduce street lighting at night, saving energy costs and reducing carbon emissions,’ the team said.

‘An estimated £300 million is spent every year on street lights in the UK,’ said lead investigator Dr. Phil Edwards from LSHTM. ‘At a time when local authorities need to make spending cuts, our findings show that by carefully assessing risks, street lighting can be reduced without an increase in car crashes and crime.’

The findings will not sit well with many incensed residents across the UK. They also contradict the Automobile Association, which has noted that switch-offs have indeed increased accidents, especially in 40 miles per hour zones, and that coroners have cited dark roads as a contributing factor to 6 fatalities since 2009.

If you think they’ll settle this one in the near future, think again. The fiery debate won’t be behind you anytime soon.

Photo is from the Harwich Labour Party