10 Feb 2022

By Jividen Law Offices, PLLC

In Car Accident

Street lighting plays a critical role in helping prevent car accidents, even if it’s something most drivers don’t usually think about. Without adequate lighting, it’s much more difficult for drivers to see potential hazards on the road, road signs, other drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists. Additionally, bad lighting can exacerbate certain driving hazards. Streetlights are required to be placed in a way that’s beneficial instead of harmful.

Because streetlights play a more significant role in car accidents than many people think, Jividen Law Offices wanted to highlight this important safety issue. Keep reading to learn more from our West Virginia car accident lawyers and the impact of streetlights on drivers’ safety.

Importance of Street Lights

Do street lights reduce accidents? Absolutely. As any driver can imagine, streetlights are extremely important in preventing car accidents. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Streetlights make potential hazards more visible — If a driver can’t see a potential hazard in the road or see it without sufficient time to take preventative steps, it’s much harder to avoid an accident. For example, animals in the road, stalled vehicles on the side of the road, and loose objects in the road are all causes of car accidents when drivers can’t see them coming to avoid them. These dangers are more apparent when illuminated by street lights at night.
  • Streetlights help keep pedestrians and cyclists safe — Even when cyclists wear reflective gear and cross at sidewalks, they can be hard to see in the dark. If there’s no nearby streetlight to illuminate them, the risk of an accident increases even further. These dangers are heightened even more for pedestrians, as they have a smaller visual profile than cyclists and can be harder to see if they’re wearing dark clothing. When the street lights go on, motorists can more easily spot vulnerable road users like pedestrians and cyclists.
  • Streetlights help drivers navigate the roads safely — Speed limit signs, stop and yield signs, warnings about sharp curves, and other road signs provide crucial information to drivers, especially at night. But if a driver can’t see a speed limit sign due to a lack of proper lighting, they may not know to slow down or that a sharp curve is coming, which can result in an accident.
  • Streetlights help drivers see each other — In the dead of night, it can be a challenge for drivers to see other vehicles around them, even when other cars have their headlights on. Lane changes, lane merges, and turns are especially dangerous in situations where drivers have low visibility. Streetlights can minimize the chances of an accident occurring by making it easier for drivers to see other vehicles around them.

Common Dangers of Bad Street Lighting

Despite the obvious safety benefits of streetlights, bad street lighting is a common problem in West Virginia and throughout the country.

Some of the dangers from poor street lighting include:

  • Not illuminating crosswalks and intersections — When crosswalks and intersections aren’t properly lit, drivers will have a harder time seeing pedestrians and cyclists. In particular, the first few moments when a pedestrian or cyclist enters a crosswalk or situation can be extremely dangerous, as they may be outside the area illuminated by an oncoming vehicle’s headlights.
  • Lack of “midblock” lighting — Street lights should be installed at different points throughout the length of the roadway, not just at intersections and crosswalks. So-called “midblock” lights provide more general illumination, making it easier for drivers to see each other, upcoming intersections, and pedestrians or cyclists who might be crossing outside of a crosswalk.
  • Installing lights too low — The type and placement of streetlights can make a significant difference in terms of how effective they are. For example, streetlights that are placed too close to the ground can give off glare, making it harder for drivers to see what’s in front of them. Lights should be installed high enough to avoid glare while still low enough to illuminate a given area properly.
  • Not replacing burned-out or broken fixtures — A streetlight that’s broken or has a broken bulb can’t help anyone. Unfortunately, many local and state governments don’t prioritize replacing broken or burned-out fixtures. This can leave drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists in grave danger.

Statistics of Accidents Caused by Absence of Street Lighting

Researchers have found that a lack of street lighting can greatly affect car crashes. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that more than 1,000 crashes nationwide were caused by issues with signs or signals in a single year. Poor roadway design caused another 1,000 crashes.

Other data back up these findings. In a separate NHTSA report, researchers found that the largest number of fatal crashes occurred during the hours of 6 p.m. to 8:59 p.m. Similarly, the largest number of injury crashes occurred during the hours of 3 p.m. to 5:59 p.m. These time windows are both periods when natural lighting can be dim or nonexistent, depending on the time of year, suggesting that better street lighting could help reduce the number of crashes.

What To Do If You’re Driving and Street Lighting Is Not Functioning

Driving when streetlights aren’t working properly can be scary. It’s important to do what you can to keep yourself and others safe.

Here are a few tips for navigating roads when street lighting is not functioning:

  • Slow down — The faster you’re moving, the harder it is to see objects and people around you, especially in the dark. Reducing your speed can help you keep a better eye out for potential hazards.
  • Increase your following distance — If you’re having a hard time seeing what’s around you, you want to increase the distance between your vehicle and others on the road. That way, you’ll have more time to react if other vehicles suddenly stop, swerve, or do something else that could put you in danger.
  • Eliminate distractions — Distracted driving is always dangerous, but it’s even more dangerous in low-light situations. Put your phone away, turn off your music, and keep conversations with passengers to a minimum until you arrive at your destination.
  • Watch your high beams — If your eyes have adjusted to a dark road, sudden exposure to intense lights can blind you for several seconds. The same is true for other drivers, so don’t blind them by using your high beams when they’re coming toward you.
  • Don’t look directly at oncoming headlights — It’s also important to avoid being blinded by other drivers’ headlights at night. Avoid looking directly at other vehicles’ headlights in low-light situations to help you see everything around you.

Even if you take every precaution to be careful driving, lack of street lights can cause an accident. If you are involved in an accident caused by a poorly lit roadway, you may have a right to pursue compensation for the losses you have suffered. An attorney can help you with your claim and identify all parties responsible.

Get in Contact with Us Today

If you’ve been injured in a car accident and poor lighting played a role, get in contact with our experienced West Virginia car accident lawyers today. If you have been involved in an accident, our professionals are prepared and ready to handle any type of car accident case.

Contact Jividen Law Offices today for a free initial consultation.