Survey: Motorists oppose lights switch-off to save cash

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Research has revealed that the government’s midnight switch-off of lights on UK roads, implemented since 2010, poses safety risks to drivers.

Car insurance expert Confused.com says 67 per cent of UK motorists strongly oppose the switch off, with 47 per cent of drivers feeling less confident when driving at night.

The switch off currently includes stretches of the M1, M2, M4, M5, M6, M27 and M54. These stretches of unlit motorway total 47.4 miles of darkness between the hours of 12 midnight and 5am.

According to the research, the biggest concerns for drivers are being worried about getting tired (20 per cent) and not being able to see other road users (31 per cent). 60 per cent of drivers also don’t think that road signs are adequately lit at night.

According to research from the Journal of Sleep Research, these concerns are justified. Driving in the dark for just three hours can make drivers drive as badly as when drunk, with performance standards equating to the driver having 0.08 per cent alcohol content in his blood - the national limit.

Although a high proportion of motorists are less confident driving in the dark, the younger generations find a lack of road lighting actually encourages risk-taking, with 27 per cent of drivers under 24 driving faster in the dark, and the same percentage again feeling “more relaxed” to the rules of the road.

Julie Townsend of road safety charity Brake says: “Street lights are an important safety feature on our roads, so it’s not surprising so many drivers are worried about them being switched off.

“There may be fewer vehicles about at night, but when driving in the dark it’s harder to spot other road users and potential hazards, and you’re more likely to encounter dangers like people drink driving.

“ If we see more crashes as a result of lights going off, it means more families suffering needless deaths and injuries, and it’s a false economy, because these crashes are a huge drain on health and emergency services.”

In a campaign to raise awareness of the risks posed to night drivers, Confused.com is petitioning for the Highways Agency to reconsider its decision to turn off the lights on some of the UK’s motorways and streets. This petition will be presented on January 31.

Gareth Kloet of Confused.com says: “Our research shows that drivers find driving in the dark a frightening experience and a reduction in motorway and street lighting exaggerates this. The safety of road users should still remain top priority - the government could even consider alternative measures such as energy saving light bulbs to help keep us safe on the roads this winter.”

To sign the motorway driving petition or to use the Confused.com alcohol units calculator tool visit Confused.com