Drivers left in the dark

Night driving in darkened Bexhill streets 2014
Night driving in darkened Bexhill streets 2014

Bexhill street light campaigners have been contacted by several motorists claiming that driving from well-lit streets into darkness could be putting lives at risk.

Judith Meredith, a campaigner opposing East Sussex County Council’s (ESCC) reduced street lighting measures in which many Bexhill streets are plunged into darkness between 12.30am-5am, said one Bexhill night shift worker contacted her to say he was ‘completely disoriented’ when driving home at night leaving a brightly lit main road and then hitting a complete wall of darkness in his side street, which he says is “a real road safety danger’.”

Judith said: “I talked to an optician about the effects of driving from well lit streets into complete darkness. The optician said it is very dangerous driving from light into darkness as it takes the human eye a while to adjust; and the older we get the slower the eyes’ reaction becomes.

“The human eye is not designed to see in the dark; in older people the light sensitive pigment in the eye’s ‘rod cells’ does not regenerate as fast as for young people. The process of ‘dark adaptation’ in the human eye occurs very slowly. The eyes initial adaptation takes several minutes but to fully adapt the eye takes 30-40 minutes.”

Judith added: “Avoiding dark adaptation is why the Highways Agency decided to illuminate the whole of the M25. In Bexhill, this should have been achieved by the overnight use of cheap efficient LED street lighting.”

Judith said ESCC’S claims that Bexhill residents are all tucked up in bed before 12:30am are a ‘myth’, adding: “They clearly do not understand that some people have to work or travel at night as a necessary part of their job. “Campaigners have heard from many night shift workers in our town and many others who are out and about for many other reasons. All complain of becoming disoriented in the pitch black.”

Judith added: “The question still remains as to why Bexhill residents are bearing a huge 27 per cent of the county’s street lighting cuts - no answer has been given by the council.

“And why have ESCC and County Councillors not used Bexhill residents’ money wisely by investing in LED street lighting, as they have in Hastings and Eastbourne?”

Simon Hall, ESCC team manager for street lighting, said they work with emergency services and there will be some change. He said: “The police and fire service inform us there has been no increase in reported incidents in areas affected by part night lighting.

“While Bexhill does not form part of the area where street lights are being converted to LED technology we do plan to install LED lights, and return to full night lighting, on some of the busier roads in the town in the future, but this will be a gradual process as and when lanterns need replacing.”