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Transportation United Kingdom Technology

UK To Dim Highway Lights To Save Money 348

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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:39AM (#39170893)

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

  • by bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:45AM (#39170919)

    "Hello lamppost,. What cha knowing?. I've come to watch your flowers growing.. Ain't cha got no rhymes for me?. Doot-in' doo-doo,. Feelin' groovy.."

    gets a completly new meaning then...

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 bickerdyke ( 670000 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @07:57AM (#39170989)

    You're much more likely to notice that you forgot turning on your headlights if it's dark around.

  • 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).

  • 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.

  • 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 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 GameboyRMH ( 1153867 ) <gameboyrmh@gma i l .com> on Monday February 27, 2012 @08:43AM (#39171227) Journal

    I always wondered if libertarians would have us all drive offroad rigs over mud trails to get around.

    Now I know.

  • by FireFury03 ( 653718 ) <slashdotNO@SPAMnexusuk.org> 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 AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) <mojo@nOspAm.world3.net> on Monday February 27, 2012 @09:12AM (#39171419) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:10AM (#39171913)
    Also, when it is very foggy the street lights make an "interface" that you can't see through at all. It just looks like a wall of light and you have no idea if it is safe to enter. If the lights are off, it is much easier to drive in the fog.
  • by jafiwam ( 310805 ) on Monday February 27, 2012 @10:22AM (#39172057) Homepage Journal
    Headlights are also critical in seeing other cars out of the corner of one's eye, at dusk, in blind spots, etc. Running lights on cars do very little to help the driver of the car see, but they do wonders for keeping "that jackass just pulled out in front of me!" to a minimum. Hint: if your lights are not on, YOU are the jackass. I leave my lights on all the time I am driving, if it keeps just one person from getting themselves tangled in a wreck with me and my car it's worth it.

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