It’s December again. Christmas Day is just a few weeks away, with the winter solstice – or shortest day of the year – just three days before that on 22 December.
As the nights continue to draw in, we’ll spend more of our time driving in the dark. It’s something experienced drivers among us are well used to, of course, as the shortened days of winter are an annual occurrence. Those drivers will be used to driving on well-lit roads, however, so recent decisions made by some local authorities to switch off street lights could have taken many by surprise as they find roads they’ve been driving on for many a long winter are now plunged into total darkness.
Local authorities across the UK are faced with increasing budget pressures and many will switch off street lights this winter in an effort to save money. Earlier this year, we considered whether street lighting helps reduce road traffic accidents and how local councils should think carefully before implementing a blanket switch-off policy.
In October last year, Essex County Council became the first local authority in the UK to reverse a street light switch off programme after caving into public pressure. A survey of residents in Harlow revealed that dark streets had become “people’s number one concern”, something which the local council agreed with as they have now switched the lights back on all night, with a 1.5 per cent increase in council tax to pay for it.
Safety on Blacked-Out Roads
Some local authority areas have experienced an increase in night-time collisions on roads where street lights have been switched off. For example, almost 100 people in Cheshire have been injured in road accidents on unlit roads since 2010; almost two-thirds of these accidents happened over the last two years.
The risk of driving on unlit roads only gets worse over winter – it’s dark during both the morning and evening rush hours, and wintry weather like snow and ice only add to the hazards that drivers face at this time of year.
With 40 per cent of all road collisions occurring in the hours of darkness and – Essex aside – more and more councils switching off street lights to save money, it’s crucial that we all follow safety guidance on driving at night.
Here are three things to remember this winter:
- Check your lights – always check your lights before any journey. It’s illegal to drive without fully functioning front and rear lights, so make sure they are working properly and that the lenses are clean.
- Slow down – dark roads could mean that hazards pop out of nowhere and other, more vulnerable, road users are harder to see. Drive slower than you normally would so you can react in time.
- Avoid steamy windows – keeping your windscreen clean on the inside can help prevent windows steaming up. You should also make sure your screen wash is topped up as windscreens that are dirty on the outside can increase glare from other cars.
Stay safe on the roads this winter, especially if your local area is affected by a street light switch-off programme. If you are injured in a collision on an unlit road, it’s important to seek legal advice from an expert personal injury solicitor who can help you claim compensation.
Slater and Gordon Lawyers are a leading personal injury law firm with many years’ experience in successfully settling road traffic accident claims on behalf of clients injured in collisions at all times of the day.
Most of our claims are dealt with on a No Win No Fee basis, meaning there is no financial risk to you.
For a free consultation about making a car accident claim, call us 24/7 on freephone 0800 916 9046 or contact us online and we’ll be happy to help you.