Oxford, England – Street lighting provides a simple, low-cost means of stemming the global epidemic of road traffic death and injury, according to global health care information provider Cochrane Collaboration. The new review said that low-income countries should consider installing more lights, while high-income countries should reconsider before turning any off to reduce carbon emissions.

The Collaboration said that prior to now,  scientific evidence has been uncertain and many studies are decades out of date, but a systematic review now shows that street lighting does indeed reduce crashes and injuries on the road. The World Health Organization estimates that one million people die each year on the world’s roads, and up to an additional 50 million are injured.

“Road traffic crashes are not just the unfortunate culmination of chance, but are events that can be analyzed so that the risk factors are identified and then addressed,” said leader researcher Fiona Beyer. “Darkness is a risk factor; street lighting is therefore a valuable tool.”

The researchers pooled data from 14 studies and found that street lighting reduced total crashes by between 32 and 55 per cent, and fatal injury crashes by 77 per cent.  Without intervention, the number of deaths due to road traffic crashes is expected to reach 2.3 million by 2020, with nine out of ten deaths expected to occur in low- and middle-income countries. But Beyer said the results may also have implications for policy makers who plan to reduce public street lighting, under the premise of cutting carbon emissions and costs.

“In the U.K., an increasing number of local councils are looking to turn off some public street lighting in a move to reduce costs and carbon emissions,” Beyer said. “The potential adverse road safety impact of such a policy should be carefully considered in light of our findings.”

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