Safety fears over Suffolk lights switch-off plan

PLANS to switch off many street lights in Suffolk could put road-users at an increased risk, an expert has warned.

Suffolk County Council decided to turn off or dim its street lights, which is expected to save the authority about �400,000 a year.

But a study by vehicle safety expert Dr Nick Gkikas suggests that the accident risk for pedestrians is trebled where streets are plunged into darkness.

His report also suggests that 71 per cent of motorists in East Anglia believe switching off essential street lighting is an 'appalling' and 'dangerous' idea.

Dr Gkikas, formerly a member of the Vehicle Safety Research Team at Loughborough University and now a human factors engineer with the consultancy Autonomics, said: said: 'While we are not suggesting it is impossible to implement energy-saving schemes without compromising road safety, our report clearly shows that more thought needs to be given to the detailed factors behind visibility-related accidents. At the moment, it all seems rushed and decision-makers haven't realised what is at stake.'

Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio-holder for roads, transport and planning, said lights would only be turned off or dimmed where it made sense on safety grounds.

He added: 'What we are looking at in Suffolk is a more sophisticated approach, for example we would not be turning off street lighting where we have got pedestrian crossings or bus stops.

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'Provided safety is not put at risk and crime is not encouraged, I think it's a good idea otherwise I would not be proposing it.'

Paul de Zylva, spokesman for Friends of the Earth, said: 'Councils should be investing in well-positioned, low-energy lighting.

'At the moment too much energy is wasted on unnecessary lighting instead of the lights needed to keep people safe.'

Dr Gkikas based his study on a literature review and a road-user survey, which polled 3,000 motorists across the UK.