SONY DSC

Switching off streetlights at night - to cut costs to local councils and reduce pollution - has lead to a rise in road casualties, it was revealed yesterday.

Police data has shown that road deaths in areas where streetlights are turned off rose by 39 per cent since 2009, when a clampdown on road lighting was introduced, while serious injuries were up by 27 per cent and minor injuries rose by 19 per cent.

More than 750,000 streetlights are currently being switched off or dimmed due to councils trying to save money, or the Highways Agency attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and light pollution in heavily-populated areas.

Generally, road casualties are on a downward trend in the UK, however, there has been a 20 per cent increase in unlit areas, with 324 more people killed or injured since 2009.

The AA said that councils should use the £200 million Government Challenge Fund to install energy-efficient lighting rather than simply switching off lights altogether. AA president Edmund King, said: "Roads that are safe when lit can be unsafe with the lights off. Why did people have to become victims to prove the point?"

Professor Stephen Glaister, RAC Foundation director, said that councils and the Highways Agency ignored experts when they warned that these budget cuts could increase road casualties.

But the Local Government Association hit back, saying: "Improving road safety is a key priority.

"Police and communities are always consulted before lighting is reduced. If councils were presented with evidence it was causing a safety risk they would act. However, this data fails to provide that evidence."

The Highways Agency added: "Safety is a top priority. We continue to light our network wherever it provides a safety benefit."

Author: Danielle Bagnall