STRICTLY EMBARGOED UNTIL 00.01 ON FRIDAY 26TH OCTOBER

- Drivers left in the dark as one in five(1) street lights are switched off at night -

- More than two million (48%) of Britain’s street lights are switched off or dimmed during the night hours(1)

 

  • More than 14,000 street lamps are switched off all night, while almost 500,000 are turned off for part of the night(1).
  • Interactive map reveals the South West as the darkest region in Britain, with 42% of its street lamps turned off or dimmed by councils overnight.
  • Almost two thirds (64%) UK drivers have driven at night while street lights were completely switched off – 16% of which had an accident or near miss.
  • Three in 10 (30%) drivers are confused about why councils switch off street lights in heavily pedestrianised areas.

 

It’s a dark time for drivers across Britain as new research reveals one in eight (12%) street lights across the country are switched off through all or part of the night. And with the clocks going back this Sunday (28th October), motorists will face even darker evenings and more challenging road conditions.

 

There are almost a whopping 4.3 million street lights installed across Britain, according to new Freedom of Information data obtained by Confused.com(1), of which, more than 2 million (48%) are switched off or dimmed during certain hours of the night, leaving motorists truly in the dark.  Of these, 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.

 

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. 

 

While this is an issue faced by all drivers, there seems to be some regions across Britain where roads are a lot darker, and arguably more daunting for motorists. A new interactive map created by Confused.com reveals that the South West in particular has the highest percentage of the region’s street lights switched off or dimmed overnight. Out of the 409,220 street lamps installed in the South West more than two in five (42%) are switched off or dimmed throughout the night by each of the region’s councils, on average(2).

 

On the other hand, London leaves the majority of its street lights fully lit (93%), on average, possibly due to the large amount of vehicles and pedestrians who take to the streets 24 hours a day. For a full view of how many regions are plunged into darkness, please see Confused.com’s ‘Lights Out’ interactive map.

 

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%) 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%) 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 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.

 

But it isn’t just a murky vision which is knocking drivers’ confidence, as some also find it difficult to drive in general in darker conditions. In fact, more than one in four (28%) 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.

 

And with the impending clock-change on Sunday, drivers have no choice but to face the darkness. And perhaps this calls for more lights to remain on, even if for a little bit longer, and help drivers to feel confident when tackling the roads at night.

 

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, drivers really are left in the dark. Our interactive map shows just how many regions across Britain are plunging motorists 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 car 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.”

 

-Ends-

Notes to editors

Unless otherwise stated, all figures taken from omnibus research carried out by One Poll on behalf of Confused.com. This was an online poll of 2,000 UK adults who drive (nationally representative sample). The research was conducted between 12th October and 19th October 2018.

 

  1. In August, Confused.com issued a Freedom of Information request to 436 borough, district and city councils. Of which 222 responded. The request asked the following:
  1. How many street lights is your local authority responsible for in total?
  2. How many street lights are switched off all night within your local authority area?
  3. How many street lights are switched off for a period of time during the night within your local authority area?
  4. How many street lights are dimmed during the night within your local authority area?
  5. Is your council planning to switch off or dim street lights in the future?
  6. How many street lights were switched off and dimmed in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 (to date)?

All figures referenced based on 2017 data.

  1. The percentage of streetlights off/dimmed by region looks at the average percentage of streetlights off or dimmed across all local authorities in that region.