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UK To Dim Highway Lights To Save Money

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the those-greedy-corporations-just-don't-care-about-safety dept.

Transportation 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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348 comments

I for one (5, Funny)

biodata (1981610) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170887)

welcome our new dark overlords.

I might just be a luddite, but (5, Insightful)

Cryacin (657549) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:I might just be a luddite, but (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171115)

It wouldn't really have occurred to me that street lighting (other than on Motorways) was primarily aimed at drivers. I would have thought that pedestrians were the main beneficiaries.

Re:I might just be a luddite, but (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171169)

Americans drive everywhere .-)

Using the footpath is what you do when crossing from your Hummer to Walmart to stock up on lard and chip fat.

Re:I might just be a luddite, but (4, Informative)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171203)

It benefits pedestrians much more than drivers, but the lights make it easier for drivers to see where they're going too. Without street lights, the area outside of where your headlights land will be dark if there's a moon, or a pitch-black void if it's a moonless night, vs. with street lights where the whole road is lit up.

Re:I might just be a luddite, but (2)

mmalove (919245) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171133)

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.

Re:I might just be a luddite, but (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171413)

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.

Re:I might just be a luddite, but (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171419)

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.

Re:I for one (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171163)

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

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

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171357)

welcome our new dark overlords.

There is NO reason for so much street lighting apart from ONE the dang coppers are not doing their jobs so the only way of slowing the crims down is to make them more visable if crims were affraid of getting caught because of the consequences then we could reduce by 100% the amount of wasted energy in street lighting BUT, They also need to force shops and office block to turn lights OFF over night wasting energy just cus it looks good .
I am all for completely getting rid of all light pollution

Re:I for one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171461)

its like a new campaign for earth hour....

Highway lights??? (4, Interesting)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170889)

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

Re:Highway lights??? (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39170903)

The Germans are in bed by 9pm.

Re:Highway lights??? (2)

Mithent (2515236) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170929)

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.

Re:Highway lights??? (3, Insightful)

muindaur (925372) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170931)

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??? (5, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170989)

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

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

pahles (701275) | more than 2 years ago | (#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!

Re:Highway lights??? (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171093)

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??? (5, Informative)

Niedi (1335165) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Highway lights??? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171375)

When seat-belts were introduced, they were accused of the same thing - the number of accidents going up, because people felt safer and drove more quickly as a consequence.

The overall number of serious injuries and deaths were reduced by seat-belts, however.

I'm pretty OK with my car having a couple of minor bumps and scrapes if the chances of me being in a fatal accident are reduced. If I can get from A to B more quickly, my quality of life is improved as well. Bonus.

Re:Highway lights??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171225)

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 would like to add that in Belgium all the proceeds of tax on fuel, and use of the road and things like toll roads, goes back in to the road system. Here in the UK however the road system and the fuels taxes are just a cash cow for the government.

Re:Highway lights??? (2)

Edzilla2000 (1261030) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171305)

Yeah, but no.

If you've ever driven here in Belgium, you might have noticed that ALL roads are crappy. From highways to small roads, there are holes everywhere.

Autobahn (5, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Autobahn (1)

Splab (574204) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170965)

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 (3, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171053)

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.

Re:Autobahn (2)

AVee (557523) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171119)

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 slow traffic and stuff like that. Things like corners in the road for which would require you to slow down etc should be lit though, but when the rest of the road is dark having lights at the 'special' situations actually provides early signal something special is ahead.

Re:Autobahn (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171167)

With street lights, the Porsche driver might have seen the truck in time. As it was, Darwin claimed another victim.

But at least there's no carbon emission and the planet is saved

Re:Autobahn (1)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171309)

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 (3, Funny)

Rockoon (1252108) | more than 2 years ago | (#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??? (1)

stoofa (524247) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170993)

Having been driving on a UK motorway illuminated at night when all the lights have failed through a fault, it can be quite surprising and scary, as your eyes have grown accustomed to the brightness and so it suddenly looks very dark. Then again, on a dark isolated road where your eyes grow used to the dark, even dipped lights can seem blinding (especially halogens).

So I think it should be a case of all or nothing. Either all lights on or all lights off (even headlights), in the latter case, everyone could just wind down their windows and play very loud music.

Re:Highway lights??? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171097)

Kind of a "no shit Sherlock" moment. Why does my car have headlights? Both dim and BRIGHT? Why did you steal money from me to put up useless lights?

Just another example of liberals pissing away money for non-sense, but all in the name of safety to pat themselves on the back over something they don't have a clue about.

Re:Highway lights??? (1, Insightful)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171227)

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

Now I know.

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

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Highway lights??? (4, Insightful)

Chrisq (894406) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Highway lights??? (3, Insightful)

FireFury03 (653718) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171373)

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.

Re:Highway lights??? (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171145)

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.

Re:Highway lights??? (1)

value (2182292) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171201)

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

And let's ban the internet. All those computers use so much electricity.

Re:Highway lights??? (1)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171263)

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.

LED lights last longer if dimmed (3, Informative)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Highway lights??? (1)

DnaK (1306859) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171487)

Most street lamps are HID lights. [HPS, MH, MV lamps] Which means every time you flip it off, you have to wait 5~ min until the bulb relights, and 5 more min until it is fully lit. System like that would only work for incandescent lighting, which already burns FAR more energy per lumen then HID lighting does.

Re:Highway lights??? (2)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171271)

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 electricity than boiling water on a stove. Besides that, it's not about saving electricity in general, but to cut down your electricity bill. (the taxpayers bill in this case.)

Would the exact opposite be better? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39170893)

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

Re:Would the exact opposite be better? (3, Insightful)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#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).

Cue in big brother (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39170895)

"Each full-fledged installation includes a built-in speaker and a duo-band radio with data storage."
As this is UK, I expect it also to include camera recording everything.
Every lamp post spying on you. Wouldn't that be great?

Re:Cue in big brother (3, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

Re:Cue in big brother (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171177)

"Hello lamppost,. What cha knowing?. I've come to watch your stored recording.. Ain't cha got no bombs for me?. Doot-in' doo-doo,. Packin' Semtex.."

Re:Cue in big brother (1)

ciderbrew (1860166) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170939)

I want to thumb you in the nose for posting ideas like that on the net. They don't have any of their own you know! This is just the sort of thing they'll do. I want to pitch in an even more ridiculous to top yours but fear in doing so I'd only be adding to it all. HELP HELP. England is a prison isle.

sensible (1)

topologicalanomaly47 (1226068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170897)

This actually sounds sensible.

Re:sensible (0)

philip.paradis (2580427) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170913)

I disagree, and agree with the AC that posted this comment [slashdot.org] , reproduced here for convenience:

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

Light pollution (5, Insightful)

Dave Whiteside (2055370) | more than 2 years ago | (#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...

Light deters crime (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171005)

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.

Re:Light deters crime (3, Insightful)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#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:Light deters crime (2)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171109)

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.

Re:Light deters crime (1)

FatLittleMonkey (1341387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171275)

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?

Re:Light deters crime (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171291)

Compared with hoping the burglar is afraid of lamps?

Criminals are a cowardly, superstitious lot.

Remember, every all concealing shadow could contain a Batman.

Re:Light deters crime (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171403)

Compared with hoping the burglar is afraid of lamps?

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

Re:Light deters crime (2)

GameboyRMH (1153867) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171289)

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.

Electricity consumption -- where does it go? (2)

Krokant (956646) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170909)

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 wasted electricity at night?

Re:Electricity consumption -- where does it go? (5, Interesting)

bickerdyke (670000) | more than 2 years ago | (#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)

Re:Electricity consumption -- where does it go? (5, Interesting)

welshie (796807) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Electricity consumption -- where does it go? (1)

olau (314197) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170981)

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?

Re:Electricity consumption -- where does it go? (5, Informative)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170995)

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.

Re:Electricity consumption -- where does it go? (2)

necro81 (917438) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171221)

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] .

Re:Electricity consumption -- where does it go? (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171467)

t (knowing that a nuclear power plant does not have a big red control lever to lower electricity generation at night).

Not quite true - France runs some nukes in load following mode. It's less efficient, but when you have 80% of your electricity from nukes who gives a fuck?

Ok, the next obvious answer then... (3, Funny)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170915)

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).

Re:Ok, the next obvious answer then... (3, Insightful)

ledow (319597) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170955)

"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.

Translation (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171057)

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] .

Re:Ok, the next obvious answer then... (1)

MrDoh! (71235) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171219)

"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.

Re:Ok, the next obvious answer then... (1)

Inda (580031) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171283)

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.

Why not traffic signals, too? (3, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:Why not traffic signals, too? (1)

shippers (1100005) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171299)

This happens already, although it's more to do with regulating rush hour traffic than saving energy. So called part-time traffic lights are common at roundabouts where they can help traffic flow at peak times, but at night it's easier just to switch off and let the traffic regulate itself.

Interesting but... (1)

Going_Digital (1485615) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170963)

An interesting idea but surely this is kind of backwards ? During busy times there are lots of vehicles on the road with their lights on so it is easy to see other road users and it is less likely that you will find unexpected obstacles in the road such as animals and people straying into the road. However during quiet times only your lights are illuminating the road and you are far more likely to encounter unseen obstacles.

Re:Interesting but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171007)

An interesting idea but surely this is kind of backwards ?

During busy times there are lots of vehicles on the road with their lights on so it is easy to see other road users and it is less likely that you will find unexpected obstacles in the road such as animals and people straying into the road. However during quiet times only your lights are illuminating the road and you are far more likely to encounter unseen obstacles.

yep, exactly what I was thinking...

Re:Interesting but... (1)

Per Wigren (5315) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171151)

I don't agree. When there is very little traffic I can use the high beam to get good visibility. I can't do that if the road is busy or semi-busy.
Actually I only want road lights when there is just enough traffic that I have to turn off the high beam most of the time. When there is very little traffic or the road is very busy, it's best to keep them off.

EU Ratification (4, Informative)

rapiddescent (572442) | more than 2 years ago | (#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 (5, Informative)

defnoz (1128875) | more than 2 years ago | (#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).

Re:EU Ratification (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171481)

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.

Tradeoff (1)

l2718 (514756) | more than 2 years ago | (#39170987)

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.

Re:Tradeoff (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171205)

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.

Actual savings? (2)

dtmos (447842) | more than 2 years ago | (#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?

Re:Actual savings? (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171215)

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.

Surely (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171071)

There would be more money saved by making the people individually controlling these lights redundant?

Turn them off altogether. (1)

Lefty2446 (232351) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171155)

I find street lighting on highways annoying, Save money, turn off the poles and put down more reflectors. The reflectors have the added benefit of making the lane markings visible when overhead street lighting dosen't.

My most hated driving is at night while raining on a lit up highway. The street lighting illuminates the water on your windscreen causing almost whiteout conditions.

Adrian

Turn every other light off? (1)

Saintwolf (1224524) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171209)

There, half the energy used in the UK streetlights and only a slight implication towards safety.

But that would be the smart thing to do, so it won't happen...

Hey, I've got an idea! (0)

Compaqt (1758360) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171229)

About about dimming (to the point of turning off) daylight running lights, the absurd waste of forcing keeping car headlights turned on during the day after some bureaucrat read a story that it helps reduce traffic accidents in Nordic countries (which have a lot of dark days).

Complete straw man (2)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 2 years ago | (#39171465)

Except that the headlights only use power when the car is on the road, which for most people is less than 10% of the time, only have to light a small area, and represent a tiny proportion of the energy being consumed (in my car, an average of around maybe 0.5%). And you are only required to have them on overnight or during precipitation. The running lights nowadays are mostly LED and use a tenth of the power of the headlights. This is a straw man argument.

Old news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171235)

In Belgium they are doing this for several years. After having the (questionable) reputation of the most illuminated motorways and highways in the world they started dim to lights at night.

First it was only from midnight to 5 am. Last year they decided to turn on the lights only when it rains. This created additional problems with unforeseen rain or with local thunderstorms.

Re:Old news. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171333)

Then again, in Belgium you need all the light you can get to evade the holes in the road surface...

Have long thought economic problems are starting.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171255)

economic problems are starting to really hurt when the street lights are put out (or dimmed). Regardless of what everyone thinks, outdoor lighting does NOT reduce crime, but makes everyone feel safer. If you light one area, you only move the crime around. In the US, many gas stations have higher lighting levels than hospital operating rooms. Those bright lights attract attention and make the customer feel safer.

Street lighting does improve safety by reducing accidents, but can usually be designed better to be both safer and use the light better. Replacement of older installations that would save lives and money is a function of capital costs and the age of the installation; with the ROI being measured in years, so this doesn't happen quickly.

The use of LEDs could save money; 1) by reducing electricity use; 2) Smart systems that dim at different hours. But this only works if current lighting levels are maintained. Historically, this hasn't happened. The introduction of Mercury-Vapor, High Pressure Sodium and Metal-Halide (each about 15 years apart) have all "promised" to reduce costs, but universally in each case, the light levels were increased in lieu of saving money and energy.

Poorly designed outdoor lighting is linked to breast cancer. It also has dramatically impacted night time insect populations, which in turn has impacted the food chain. It also dramatically impacts migrating birds, accounting for tens of thousands of birds a year in North America alone. It has robbed about 2/3's of the worlds population to a primary paradigm that links all human cultures regardless of skin color, location or religion; the night sky. Can you name a single star? Did you know the names of those planets you saw beside the Moon last night or earlier this week? Odds are, you can't.

Rod and cones(not the readside cones!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39171453)

What's not mentioned here is the human factor. Our retina uses cones for daylight vision, and are colour sensitive. We use the rods for night vision. and we see in black and white only. If you use bright lights, the cones take over and the rods fade. Then you drive into a dark spot, and you can't see anything until the rods kick in again. What you need is dimmer lights, so that the rods work all the time. The cones aren't too sensitive to red light, so you could use red lights, as used in aircraft and ships, so that we can use the rods all the time.

This is all complicated by those drivers with cataracts, who see oncoming headlights as huge circles covering the entire road. For these drivers, we need brighter lights so that they can actually see the road in front of them. What we really need is for the road itself to glow in the dark. Any inventers out there?

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