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UK To Dim Highway Lights To Save Money 348

Posted by timothy
from the those-greedy-corporations-just-don't-care-about-safety dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that street lights on thousands of miles of major roads in England will be dimmed during quiet periods to save money and reduce carbon emissions. The Highways Agency has already turned off the lights on more than 80 miles of the motorway network and will soon begin a survey of where this can be done on the 2,500 miles of A roads it controls. Nigel Parry, of the Institution of Lighting Professionals, says that technology enabled lights can be controlled individually and remotely. 'The idea is that when traffic is busy, such as during the morning and evening rush hour, you have them at their brightest. When the traffic disappears you can dim them. You can maintain safety and use half as much energy.'"
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UK To Dim Highway Lights To Save Money

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  • I for one (Score:5, Funny)

    by biodata (1981610) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:38AM (#39170887)
    welcome our new dark overlords.
    • by Cryacin (657549) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:55AM (#39170973)
      Why wouldn't you turn the lights off during rush hour? More cars mean more car lights, which automatically illuminates substantial portions of the road, whereas during trough hours, there are few cars.

      It would thus make more sense to not have lights during high traffic times.
      • by mmalove (919245)

        No, I was thinking the exact same thing. Unless someone is either an idiot or recently experienced a taillight outage, you should have no problem seeing them at night. Unless they are a person, or a deer; the safety of which is exactly what makes street lights most useful.

      • by poetmatt (793785)

        No, you're exactly right - they have it backwards.

        Now the lone driver at night is at serious risk,a nd the people during traffic which already are experiencing light pollution continue to do so. At the same time, they save money!

        profit! except not in the long term due to increased crash risk.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@@@world3...net> on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:12AM (#39171419) Homepage

        Because headlights only light up what is in front of a car, not what it to the side of it. A roads can be dual carriage ways, remember. You also have to account for unsafe driving, which is more likely and more dangerous where the road is packed.

        • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Monday February 27, 2012 @11:15AM (#39172649) Homepage

          >Because headlights only light up what is in front of a car

          Correct. It's worth mentioning, for the benefit of our cousins, that we British drivers tend to change lanes much more often than Americans.

          Until very recently, it was mandatory in the UK to return to the lane furthest from the median immediately after overtaking. Only very recently has this been changed to allow you to remain in the centre lane for extended periods. In the UK it is still illegal to hog the lane nearest the median and it is illegal to "undertake" (i.e. to overtake on the furthest lane from the median) unless you are using a ramp/exit/sliproad.

          So in the UK where we drive on the left, you can only overtake on the right and most people have been trained to return back to the left pretty much immediately. That makes visibility (and therefore lighting) of the whole width of the road vital during busy periods.

          My experience of driving in the USA is that overtaking is allowed on any side and that most motorists pick one lane and stick to it for most of the whole journey, regardless of speed. (Re-wrote this half a dozen time to try to get the terminology UKUS neutral. Probably still not quite right. Bah.)

          • by Xtifr (1323)

            Actually, US laws are pretty much the same as what you describe: the lane closest to the median is reserved for passing, and what you call "undertaking" is illegal. We also have a law requiring you to change lanes to allow someone to overtake, if you can safely do so. There are signs posted all over the place saying "Slower Traffic Keep Right" to remind people of this law (remember, right is farther from the median in the US).

            The difference is that these laws are basically ignored by both drivers and poli

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by formfeed (703859)

          Because headlights only light up what is in front of a car...

          TFA is about the UK. They drive on the wrong side of the road, so the headlights light up what is behind of the car.

    • by ByOhTek (1181381)

      That's what the Nigels think, but what about the Bruises?

      I've been watching too many Top Gear reruns...

    • by James_Duncan8181 (588316) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:55AM (#39172439) Homepage
      Crash on the M25: A bus has collided with a grue.
  • Highway lights??? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bickerdyke (670000) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:39AM (#39170889)

    I doubt that highway lights are an actual safety improvement, considering that the german Autobahn don't have them at all.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:42AM (#39170903)

      The Germans are in bed by 9pm.

      • by prefec2 (875483)

        In winter that still means 5 hour darkness before German-bedtime. Enough time to race on the Autobahn. Nevertheless, most people are watching TV at that time. 20:00 Tagesschau (news), followed by unspeakable bad TV, followed by Tagesthemen (more noews) 22:35-23:00. However, the last news thing is only for "educated" people. the rest has to be in bed by then.

        Another good reason for darkness on the Autobahn: You cannot see the special driving skills of those who inhabit the road at night. This is very importa

        • by fyngyrz (762201) on Monday February 27, 2012 @03:28PM (#39176025) Homepage Journal

          In Montana, when during a short and unusual period of rationality we had somewhat unlimited daytime driving speeds [hwysafety.com], nighttime driving was still constrained to relatively low speeds because there is no safe driving regime that includes over-driving one's headlights. And while during the day it was kind of difficult to get a ticket when driving reasonably, at night, they could nearly hang you at the side of the road if you stepped out of line. IMHO, that was driving heaven. Accidents declined below Montana's previous levels, and other than gas milage, the side effects were pretty much uniformly positive.

          Personally, we (my family) bought a relatively high-powered sports car capable of long-term high speed runs, and intentionally focused on traveling during the day, as one got to the destination faster, the driving was a lot more fun, concentration was better as more things happen faster, and said concentration, easier or not, didn't have to be maintained for as long a period.

          As an aside: Daytime driving is safer here because the animals generally keep their heads down or they get shot off by our not very lovable rednecks. Often heard here: "Wanna go bust some 'dawgs?" This is a euphemism for going out and "popping" prairie dogs, and anything else that might show its eyes or ears, with a high powered rifle. This is about as popular as drinking. and often the behaviors are combined. Anyway, it leads directly to a very cautious daytime wild animal population.

          Alas, the feds applied significant pressure by threatening to withdraw highway funds, our state legislators invented nonsensical justifications to accommodate the idiot feds without exactly looking like they were accommodating them, we lost our driving paradise, accident rates went right back up, and there you have it.

    • by Mithent (2515236)
      It does seem unnecessary if it's a motorway in the middle of nowhere. But it's helpful around junctions and more built-up areas, and there can be cyclists, pedestrians and even horses on A roads.
    • by muindaur (925372) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:47AM (#39170931) Journal

      I only ever see the in city areas, and have driven during rush hour. That's the only time I would say they are a safety improvement. A number of idiots drive in the dusk without their headlights on out here in the country. Magnify that for city rush hour and it can get dangerous. The biggest issue is likely seeing the exit signs, so it's likely to reduce distraction of people trying to read them with the shorter range of head lights on low beams, or having people that are blinded by the high beams on behind them to get better range on the road sign reflectors.

    • Re:Highway lights??? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by pahles (701275) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:48AM (#39170937)
      Belgium (notorious for lighting every square meter of higway, it looks like you're driving in broad daylight) decided to turn of every other light a couple of years ago. After the number of accidents rose some 25% they quickly turned the lights back on!
      • I'd say that's mostly to the actual change and people being unused to the new ilumination situation.

        And please keep in mind that I was comparing to the Autobahn, where nothing and noone but cars are allowed. Moving cars to be exact.

      • Re:Highway lights??? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Niedi (1335165) on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:16AM (#39171095)

        Belgium (notorious for lighting every square meter of higway, it looks like you're driving in broad daylight) decided to turn of every other light a couple of years ago. After the number of accidents rose some 25% they quickly turned the lights back on!

        Sorry, but that's definitely no longer correct.
        They shut off most of it last year. Afaik it's still shut off and the reports on the effects ranged between "no noticable effect on the accidents" and "slight decrease". The light increased visibility, but the feeling of safety seemed to lead to more speeding accidents and reckless driving.

    • Autobahn (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:49AM (#39170943)
      Short answer: which have the better safety records, British motorways or German Autobahn?

      Long answer: street lights reduce the glare from oncoming vehicles, which is at its worst at busy times. On 'A' roads, they also let you distinguish motorcycles from our increasing number of one-headlamp drivers. On the other hand, I've seen the result of the Porsche that overtook me once doing at least 200k at night meeting the Polish artic with tiny lights covered in mud. With street lights, the Porsche driver might have seen the truck in time. As it was, Darwin claimed another victim.

      • by Splab (574204)

        To me it's counter intuitive to turn the lights off outside rush hour.

        During rushhour when traffic is going naturally slow, I'd thought less light was needed - but during late night you would need more light to make sure you see whats ahead of you. (High beams might help, but if there is light traffic, you might not be able to use them).

        • Re:Autobahn (Score:4, Insightful)

          by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:06AM (#39171053) Journal
          When there is only one car, and it has lights, it is easy to spot. Driving on country lanes at night is often safer than during the day, because you know where cars are long before you see them because of their headlights. When there is a lot of traffic, there is a lot of ambient light and it's harder to spot individual vehicles.
        • by AVee (557523)
          Personally I really don't need the lights outside rush hour. I find it far easier, and less tiring, to get an overview of what's going on around me just seeing the taillights ahead of me. It's also makes it easier to spot an unexpected traffic jam ahead, you will see that later on an illuminated road. I am unsure how dimming the lights would work out, but I guess I'd rather have them totally off. There are some requirements though, the road should be predictable and the shouldn't be any unilluminated or sl
      • Short answer: which have the better safety records, British motorways or German Autobahn?

        Controversial answer: Which roads have better drivers, British motorways or German Autobahn . . . ?

      • Re:Autobahn (Score:4, Funny)

        by Rockoon (1252108) on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:03AM (#39171337)
        I like to take the bulb out of the drivers side headlight and then drive straight down the double-yellow line on moonless nights.
    • Re:Highway lights??? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:24AM (#39171137)

      I doubt that highway lights are an actual safety improvement

      I've done quite a bit of driving on UK motorways late at night and in bad weather and have to say I really appreciate the lit sections. Particularly in heavy traffic with fog, rain and snow it dramatically improves your visibility and I feel I can judge distances a lot better with them. I don't mind being on an empty unlit road at night, but a busy one (e.g. parts of the M62 on the north side of Manchester) can be pretty horrible.

      • by Chrisq (894406) on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:36AM (#39171199)

        I doubt that highway lights are an actual safety improvement

        I've done quite a bit of driving on UK motorways late at night and in bad weather and have to say I really appreciate the lit sections. Particularly in heavy traffic with fog, rain and snow it dramatically improves your visibility and I feel I can judge distances a lot better with them. I don't mind being on an empty unlit road at night, but a busy one (e.g. parts of the M62 on the north side of Manchester) can be pretty horrible.

        I find that in the unlit sections the dazzle of the oncoming headlights is much worse. And if you have dipped beams to avoid dazzling them you are driving into darkness - you know on a motorway that the road is clear but it is psychologically stressful when you can't actually see the road ahead as far as your stopping distance.

        • by biodata (1981610)
          When you can't actually see the road as far as your stopping distance, you are probably going too fast.
      • by FireFury03 (653718) <slashdot@nex[ ]k.org ['usu' in gap]> on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:07AM (#39171373) Homepage

        I've done quite a bit of driving on UK motorways late at night and in bad weather and have to say I really appreciate the lit sections. Particularly in heavy traffic with fog, rain and snow it dramatically improves your visibility and I feel I can judge distances a lot better with them.

        I find that in fog, street lighting just illuminates the fog and prevents me seeing. Whilst my headlights also reflect off the fog, the effect is far less because they are at a lower level (especially front fog lights).

        To be honest, the only problem I have driving on unlit sections of road is that when I'm following someone I can't tell if the road ahead is dark because there's no oncoming traffic (and thus safe to overtake) or because it goes around a corner. This is better resolved by installing LED cats eyes instead of streetlights, since it would show the direction the road is going in.

        I will accept that some junctions and city centres benefit from lights, but most roads don't need lighting. This is true in the suburbs too - there's a lot of evidence to suggest that whilst lighting makes pedestrians feel safer, it actually reduces safety because it creates lots of dark shadows. Pedestrian safety is improved by simply carrying a torch and wearing light clothing instead of installing street lights everywhere.

        • by prefect42 (141309)

          I really like LED catseyes for the somewhat silly reason that I somehow find it preferable having a stream of lights in my mirrors than nothing at all. They also seem much more visible in fog.

    • The speed limit on motorways is usually 120km/hr. Almost everyone is doing at the very least 75~80km/hr.

      The UK government now wants hundreds of thousands of people to do cope with such speeds, at night, in the dark, in all weathers, and I image probably even expects for this not to cause a few 10 car pileups on the odd lonely strecth of motorway somewhere.

      You want to save electricity? Ban clothes dryers, electric heaters, dishwashers and electric kettles. At least you'd cost less lives than this insanity.

      • Dimming the lights seems like the worst solution too. I wonder how much it would cost to install sensors to detect traffic and flip on the lights only ahead of individual cars. The downside would be bulb wear, flipping lights on and off increases the wear on incandescent and flourescent bulbs.

        For a sensor maybe just have a small computer with object recognition every few hundred feet. Detecting headlights should be easy so they could be spaced far apart on the straights.

        • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:11AM (#39171411)
          In fact experiments are already taking place with LED streetlights, which are variable in output and last longer the more they are dimmed. There is a roundabout lit with them not far from where I live. Although the payback compared to conventional lights is about 8 years, that is pretty good for an infrastructure project as is getting better as costs fall.
      • The speed limit on motorways is usually 120km/hr. Almost everyone is doing at the very least 75~80km/hr.

        The guidline for the unlit Autobahn is 130 km/h where no specific speed limit is given. But that (and lower speed limits) don't result that people are expected to drive that fast under all conditions.

        The UK government now wants hundreds of thousands of people to do cope with such speeds, at night, in the dark, in all weathers, and I image probably even expects for this not to cause a few 10 car pileups on the odd lonely strecth of motorway somewhere.

        Here we expect people to use their brains and slow down under bad conditions. But "darkness" isn't one of them unless combined with bad weather. Without that, reflective road markings, head and tail lights and roadside reflectors give enough visual guidance.

        You want to save electricity? Ban clothes dryers, electric heaters, dishwashers and electric kettles. At least you'd cost less lives than this insanity.

        Now that's stupid as electric kettles use much less el

      • by ctid (449118)

        "Lonely stretches of motorway" are not lit at night in the UK.

      • You want to save electricity? Ban clothes dryers, electric heaters, dishwashers and electric kettles. At least you'd cost less lives than this insanity.

        Actually, dishwashers usually use less energy and less water than washing up by hand, if you run them with a full load. And it's quite common in the UK to have electric hobs in the kitchen; boiling water in an electric kettle is always more energy efficient than boiling it in a conventional kettle on an electric hob.

        Furthermore, the examples you provide are unambiguously uses of the energy to do something useful. Using huge amounts of power to light a completely deserted stretch of road at 3 am in the morni

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I always felt that lights were less necessary when the highways are illuminated by all of the cars on the road.

    • by Fluffeh (1273756) on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:04AM (#39171033)

      Actually, there is a little truth to each.

      Here in Australia, where we have hundreds of thousands of miles of roads (not looked it up, but wouldn't be surprised if that was fact) our interstate (read 1000-4000 km raods) are only lit up at places of interest, sch as turn offs or areas approaching a city or town. Our country roads are generally not lit up unless they incur heavy use.

      When there are no lights, the road itself does seem brighter as you turn on your high beams and the reflectors point that light right back into your field of view. Now normally, you can easily see a car approaching with high beams on before you see the car (there is a haze around the next bend or above the crest of a hill) and both cars politely lower to normal headlights. However, if the other car doesn't lower his headlights in time, you can quite easily be blinded for a moment when struck by the full intensity of the high beams.

      On raods that are lit up on the other hand, drivers less frequently use their high beams, so there isn't the potential to be blinded for a few seconds, but at the same time visibility isn't nearly as good.

      In my opinion, having a safer road system is all about improving drivers rather than giving or not giving illumination on the roads. The best lighting on a road can't save you from a bad driver coming the opposite way - and by the same token, a total lack of lights doesn't kill people. I personally prefer less lights to encourage high beam use, but only if the other cars are alert enough to lower them if needed. To that point, to even get your learners permit here, you need to be able to answer correctly what to do if an oncoming car has high beams on (answer is look down and away to the road marking on the outside of the road which allows you to keep your car on the road and blinds you the least as your eyes are as far as possible away from the oncoming headlights while still keeping your car safely on your side of the road).

  • Light pollution (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dave Whiteside (2055370) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:42AM (#39170907)

    if this makes for less light pollution then even better.
    now if we can get warehouses to shut off their lights at night even better - security my ass - have they not heard of IR / lowlight video cameras - that would help even more...

    • while an IR / low light video camera would do the trick of recording the crime well lighted areas deter it. A lot of criminals are stupid, but even the dumbest do not tend to do things in well lit areas.

      Plus not all warehouses are closed at night, there is always the safety of the people who work there, including security people.

      • by bickerdyke (670000) on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:05AM (#39171041)

        The deterring argument has been proven wrong..... In a dark area, a burglar needs to use a flashlight that is likely to get noticed. In a well lit area, you're even providing him with illumination for his deeds.

        You need movement sensors and someone who notices the lights going on and check accordingly.

        • In a dark area, a burglar needs to use a flashlight that is likely to get noticed.

          Why, do crims have particularly bad eyesight? Most of the time it's easy enough to get around at night with ambient light. And even in a particularly remote area where there isn't much of that, plenty of nights have moonlight.

          Hoping that it's dark enough to require a flashlight seems like the worst security policy I've ever heard.

          • Hoping that it's dark enough to require a flashlight seems like the worst security policy I've ever heard.

            Compared with hoping the burglar is afraid of lamps?

            • by Rogerborg (306625)

              Compared with hoping the burglar is afraid of lamps?

              Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot.

              Remember, every all concealing shadow could contain a Batman.

            • Compared with hoping the burglar is afraid of lamps?

              Yes. It's about a thousand times worse than that.

          • Even ignoring that, a motion sensor is a better solution. Saves energy and reduces light pollution, has the security advantages of visible light (bystanders could see burglars) and draws attention to movement better than a flashlight, and better than the changeless always on/nightvision solutions.

      • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:35AM (#39171593) Homepage Journal

        You know what would deter crime? Sentry guns.

  • Disclaimer: no expert in this area! I remember hearing stories that for electricity generating companies, the highway lighting was one way of consuming the excess production of electricity at night (knowing that a nuclear power plant does not have a big red control lever to lower electricity generation at night). Where will this electricity go now, just in the earth (all non-used electricity is wasted!) ? And who will pay for this, the UK consumers who will see a raise in their electricity bills for more w
    • by bickerdyke (670000) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:51AM (#39170957)

      Nuclear power platns don't have that, but coal and water plants do. And as you're not actually surprised by reduced energy consumption at night, reducing their output is feasable within a few hours. For the small, unexpected movements you have gas plants that can be turned on within a few seconds.

      On the other hand, the street lights in populated areas (not highway lights, we don't have them here) are indeed used for load shedding of nuclear power plants. (Worked in a town with one until two years ago. saw the streetlights on at day quite a few times)

      • by welshie (796807) on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:38AM (#39171207)
        Excess grid output, typically at night time, goes into places like Dinorwic (North Wales) and Ben Cruachan (Scotland), which are massive pumped-storage systems, which do a remarkable job of smoothing out the supply vs demand on the National Grid, by pumping millions of litres of water uphill at 'quiet' times, and can turn up the output on demand at ridiculously short notice (far faster than any thermal power station - oil,gas,coal, nuclear) when the population decide to turn on their kettles in sync during advert breaks on telly etc.
    • by olau (314197)

      That's a lot of ifs. Maybe it would go in a storage pool which would have been become economic with lots of almost free energy at night?

    • by ledow (319597) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:58AM (#39170995) Homepage

      The same place all the other excess energy goes into - methods to try and store it and use it at slightly less efficiency later in the day.

      The usual example is to pump water back up a reservoir that's being used for electricity generation. So when it falls down again tomorrow, you can get useful energy from it again at the right time and only lose a percentage of the energy to keep pumping it back up there until you need it.

      Still doesn't mean it's efficient but the thing about electricity planning is that they KNOW when things are going to ramp up or slow down (even down to the timing of the adverts in the middle of big football matches!) and if they know, they can do their best to compensate.

      More likely, if the motorways are switched off on a regular basis, they will power down a more flexible station during those times because they know they won't have to supply as high a peak. You can't "turn off" nuclear easily, but the infrastructure isn't all nuclear. You could easily keep them going all the time to supply the "base" current and deal with peaks and spikes (like the motorway lights being on) with other means and get to shut down OTHER types of station that you wouldn't normally be able to because of the demand required.

      • by necro81 (917438)

        The usual example is to pump water back up a reservoir that's being used for electricity generation. So when it falls down again tomorrow, you can get useful energy from it again at the right time and only lose a percentage of the energy to keep pumping it back up there until you need it

        Unfortunately, the opportunities for pumped hydro storage, like hydroelectricity in general, are pretty small in Britain [decc.gov.uk].

    • Electric cars? Some form of energy storage?

  • by MrDoh! (71235) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:44AM (#39170915) Homepage Journal

    Why not just turn them off if there's no cars? Ok, current lights I'm sure take time to warm up, but if switch to these new lowpower thingies, aren't they near instantaneous?
    Or....
    Glow in the dark paint on road sides.
    As cars travel by with their lights on, it'll 'charge up' and provide a clear path for the next car! Just one or 2 lights where needed at junctions (and as a heads up that there IS a junction up ahead), and catseyes/glowinthedark paint everywhere else! Save a fortune, increase road safety!

    Or solar panel charged LED lights for road edges like you get at garden centres. Power up in the day, gently glow at night.

    Ok, next plan...
    Glow cars. Seeing as body panels these days are plastic anyway, why not make them slightly translucent, and attach lights inside the panels to make the main car itself glow? You'd be able to see cars far easier, dim headlights, giving cyclists/motorbikes clearer visibility (same brightness on their lights).
    As cars brake, not just their rear brake lights, but the whole car illuminates/changes colour.

    All in the name of saving power.

    (posting so I've something to refer back to for prior art one day).

    • by ledow (319597) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:51AM (#39170955) Homepage

      "Glow in the dark paint on road sides."

      Never heard of cat's eyes? Simpler, cheaper, non-polluting and basically last forever (the UK ones spring down when you run over them and "clean themselves" in the pool of water that collects in a chamber underneath them). That's why all UK motorways and major roads have them already.

      If we wanted to save extreme amounts of power, we could turn off all streetlights quite easily. Motorways wouldn't suffer, nor would back streets and most rural roads are unlit anyway. That's what headlights were FOR.

      The point is to balance safety with power. It's SAFER to have lights on on the motorway but, if necessary, you don't compromise safety by adjusting them in varying levels of traffic. Still the road that you pull off the motorway and do 30mph in might be unlit, but that's a much slower road so it's much less of a risk.

      It would be incredibly dangerous to remove cat's eyes or make them power-reliant. That's why they are there. Even a city-wide power-cut wouldn't stop us using the roads and motorways. But if we can switch off the MEGAWATTS of power that hundreds of miles of motorway uses when there's one or two cars per minute (try using even the M25 in the very early hours of the morning), that's an acceptable trade-off.

      • Never heard of cat's eyes?

        As an aid to international understanding, I note that in the U.S. these are called Botts' dots [wikipedia.org].

        • No they're not. They do mark out lanes and road edges, but they are a completely different principle. They use glass beads with mirrored backs to reflect light back at the driver. Like a actual cat's eyes do.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cat's_eye_(road) [wikipedia.org]

        • by nschubach (922175)

          Maybe where you live, but where I live, we have reflectors buried in the pavement with metal to protect them from snow plows [wikipedia.org]. (I've never heard the term "Botts' dots")

          • by drinkypoo (153816)

            Unfortunately, recessed reflectors are SHIT to drive on. They are bad for the driver in every way. Here's why:

            1. They are less visible at odd angles than projecting Botts' Dots (they are named after their inventor.)
            2. The recesses trap grit and rocks which are kicked up when someone drives over them, either lane changing or lane losing.
            3. The recesses pull the driver TOWARDS the line, while the projections pushed the driver AWAY from the line.
            4. Water can collect in the recesses and turn into ice. There is

      • by MrDoh! (71235)

        "Never heard of cat's eyes?"
        Aye, mentioned in the post, but that's on the ground/where your lights are roughly currently aimed as they need to bounce back the light a bit. Glow in the dark paint would illuminate where the lights aren't yet reaching.
        The cats eyes will show you that the road is starting to turn left/right, the glow in the dark paint will show it's snaking back and there's a junction on the bend.

        • by ledow (319597)

          Cat's eyes work for the distance your headlights reach, for curves and junctions (the colour of them changes for different road features - red, and green for the two sides, yellow for junctions, etc.). Decent headlights reach further than your braking distance at your car's legal top speed in those conditions (further if you "undip" them).

          Anything beyond that is basically invisible anyway. If your headlights can't pick up a cat's eye in the distance (whether around a bend or not), it's because it's just n

    • by Inda (580031)
      It's the day of your driving test. The examiner starts with a question:

      Name three road users

      1) Cars
      2) Um...

      Well done. You've failed your driving test.

      If you'd have said cyclists and pedestrians, you would have passed.

      Don't forget about other road users. They often make the most mess.
  • by dtmos (447842) * on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:50AM (#39170945)

    In the US in the 1930s it was common for major cities to turn off traffic signals in the middle of the night, also to save money on electricity costs. The criminal element quickly learned to use these times for their getaways, since they could cross town quickly without attracting the notice one gets when running red lights (cf. The Valachi Papers [wikipedia.org]).

    I know there are few traffic signals on A roads but, as this is the UK, I can't decide whether "in for a penny, in for a pound" or "penny wise, pound foolish" is the more appropriate idiom.

  • EU Ratification (Score:5, Informative)

    by rapiddescent (572442) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:56AM (#39170983)

    The biggest problem is that LED (CREE etc) based streetlights have not yet been ratified by the EU and so cannot be used on public highways in the UK. If they do become ratified then there will be huge power savings. In China, they have whole motorways lit up using this technology. Not only do they burn less power, but the lantern lifetime is much longer than the standard sodium units that have a warranty lifespan of 3 to 5 years.

    One of the problems about dimming lanterns is that the lamp post spacing is all based around the lamps at a certain luminenscence and so dimming may create dark zones, or over bright zones. So some careful analysis will be needed about how the lamps dim and whether they dim uniformly or not.

    • Re:EU Ratification (Score:5, Informative)

      by defnoz (1128875) on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:09AM (#39171385)

      The biggest problem is that LED (CREE etc) based streetlights have not yet been ratified by the EU and so cannot be used on public highways in the UK. If they do become ratified then there will be huge power savings. In China, they have whole motorways lit up using this technology. Not only do they burn less power, but the lantern lifetime is much longer than the standard sodium units that have a warranty lifespan of 3 to 5 years.

      Actually, the power saving for road lighting are negligible at best, or negative at worst. Low pressure sodium lamps currently in use produce up to 200 lm/W, compared to 100 lm/W for the better white LEDs around. There's not much that can compete with LPS for pure lighting efficiency, partly because the light emitted is near the maximum sensitivity of the human eye. Of course, LPS lamps produce monochromatic light which means they're not so popular for lighting urban/pedestrian areas, as people feel safer in a more "natural" light where they can see colours. But for roads alone, there's no need to see colours. Also, LPS is the least objectionable form of light pollution to astronomers, as being monochromatic it's easy to filter out (and there's not a lot of glowing sodium in space, so you're not blocking out anything of interest).

      • by asavage (548758)
        This is absolutely true. Most studies that show LED replacing HPS (High Pressure Sodium) or LPS are at best very dishonest. They compare a 16000 lumen HPS with a 4500 lumen LED and say the lighting levels are the same. But they intentionally don't use a reflector for the HPS lighting so the light is going in every direction. LED lights just point straight down. They measure the light only below the lamp and claim LED is better. I hope one day LED can match HPS in efficiency and price but it is a long
    • by AmiMoJo (196126)

      Strange, Philips is already doing massive installations in Europe. Contrary to what you apparently believe the EU does not have to sign off on everything member states do. Most of the "regulations" that come from Europe are actually just an acknowledgement of existing standards in member states, that tended to converge naturally anyway because of the advantages of doing so in the free market.

    • by vlm (69642)

      One of the problems about dimming lanterns is that the lamp post spacing is all based around the lamps at a certain luminenscence and so dimming may create dark zones, or over bright zones. So some careful analysis will be needed about how the lamps dim and whether they dim uniformly or not.

      I can personally verify this zone problem happens with at least some LED lights. I live in a city that has been testing old fashioned LED lights (a couple years, maybe a decade behind China at least) and they're trying to retrofit the LED heads onto existing poles but the heads they chose do not output the same light cones as the old sodium vapor or whatever lamps. So we get bright and dark bands flickering as we drive. I am not epileptic but I know the flashing sets them off and its bad enough to be dis

  • Of course, the control system required is far more complicated here. I wonder how much energy is consumed in producing and maintaining the new lampposts, controls, communication network, etc.

    • Most of the maintenance now is replacing lamps. If this is done alongside replacing with LED units, maintenance will reduce enormously.

      And there's no need for new lampposts. Just make the new tech light fittings fit in the old lamp posts. Communication is hardly difficult or expensive these days.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Of course, the control system required is far more complicated here. I wonder how much energy is consumed in producing and maintaining the new lampposts, controls, communication network, etc.

      I put on my engineers estimating hat and...

      I will call 1 KW per lamp. Yes its probably beneath but not much.

      Cost per KWh is below 10 cents/KWh for everybody, far below for a major account like my city or the highway dept, but its "In the ballpark" when you add in corruption, management, accounting, overhead in general. So 1 KW lamp costs $0.10 per hour

      yearly average is 12 hours per day of lamp and 365 days per year but thats a pain to multiply so we'll call it 10 hours a day and 333.333 or a 1/3 of a thou

  • by dtmos (447842) * on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:57AM (#39170991)

    I'm sure the lights were not designed to be turned on and off as often as they would be under this scheme. It would be interesting to see how much money is actually saved over time, once the increased wear on the lights due to the frequent on-and-off cycling is considered. How many more light replacements per year will now be required?

    • What frequent on-and-off cycling? They're talking on at dusk, dim when it gets quiet at night. Bright again for the morning traffic and off again when the sun's up.

      Only the single dim stage is new.

    • by vlm (69642)

      LEDs are used to cycling at 120 hz, or I guess 100 Hz in soccer-hooligan-land. This might be an excellent excuse to upgrade to LEDs.

      Does anyone in the biz know what they use to drive the LEDs? I'm assuming a simple bridge rectifier and some manner of constant current switcher, but "real genuine streetlights" might do something more exotic, I donno.

      Note I'm not interested in how model railroader or RC car builders bias a LED using a simple resistor, I'm quite well informed on that, thanks, I'm looking for

  • They're one later.

  • Dazzle (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Wowsers (1151731) on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:51AM (#39171727) Journal

    Ordinarily I would not care about the street lights, but these days there are cars with VERY powerful headlights, probably Xeon etc. and they look like someone has left their main/high beam on, dazzling oncoming traffic. And there are drivers that insist every day is foggy and the front and rear fog light dazzles you. And then there are the drivers with one headlight working, not bothering to fix the other one making it hard to guestimate how wide they actually are.

    At least with street lights, it helps to lessen the contrast between the lights and darkness, and helps you see how close you are to on coming traffic. The UK has some pretty small roads, not the kind of wide roads the US have (if you look at Google Earth).

  • by JustNiz (692889) on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:51AM (#39171737)

    Personally, I find my normal night vision + my headlights + tail lights of other cars is more than adequate to drive safetly at 70mph on a motorway or main road.

    I find that (unless its an obvious danger spot) occasional lit stretches of road probably cause more danger than help as it takes maybe 30 seconds to get your night vision back to full capability after passing through them.

    If they want to make motorways safer at night, then they should do more to reduce the effects of eye fatigue caused by repetitive momentary blinding from headlights of oncoming traffic.I suggest more natural light-blockers between the roads, such as planting hedges.

Murphy's Law, that brash proletarian restatement of Godel's Theorem. -- Thomas Pynchon, "Gravity's Rainbow"

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