Why Don’t Highways have LED Street Lights?
by Penglight | Date: 2nd Sep, 2023
I believe many of us have had this doubt while driving: why are there no street lights on most highways? At night, when driving on a highway, everything around is pitch black except for the car headlights and the reflective road markings. We can barely see any other light, which can make us feel somewhat unsafe. Why don’t highways have LED street lights? Wouldn’t it be safer if there were street lights?
Actually, that’s not the case. The lack of street lights is not to save costs, but a comprehensive consideration of various factors such as safety, construction, and management.
The absence of street lights on highways is a result of several factors that are taken into consideration during the planning and design stages. Here are some additional insights:
Firstly, let’s consider from the perspective of safety. The primary purpose of street lights is to provide illumination for non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians who do not have the ability to illuminate the road at night, to ensure that they can travel safely and conveniently. In bustling cities, they often have a very comprehensive street lighting system, which not only facilitates the travel of pedestrians, but also allows drivers to spot non-motorized vehicles and pedestrians clearly.
However, on highways, pedestrians and non-motorized vehicles are generally not allowed. Those vehicles with maximum speeds below 70 km/h are explicitly prohibited from accessing highways, and highways are enclosed with protective barriers on both sides, making it unlikely for animals like cows or sheep to suddenly run onto the highway.
Therefore, there are no mixed traffic conditions like those found on urban roads. Additionally, highways generally have simple road conditions, with few sharp turns and a mostly flat terrain. In summary, highway road conditions are relatively straightforward. For drivers, as long as they remain attentive to the road ahead and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles, there will be no major problems.
- Driver Distraction
Is it more convenient to install street lights on highways? The answer is no. Because the illumination from street lights is not continuous. If drivers are traveling at a constant speed on the highway and encounter a pattern of alternating bright and dark areas caused by the street lights, it can create a sense of dizziness. Prolonged exposure to this alternating light can even have a hypnotic effect. This is extremely dangerous for vehicles that can cover a distance of about 20 meters in just one second. By minimizing unnecessary sources of light, such as street lights, drivers can focus primarily on the road ahead.
Since our vehicles have headlights, they can provide drivers with sufficient illumination when external lighting is insufficient. Due to the presence of median barriers on the road, there is no concern about the headlights of oncoming vehicles causing glare. Ground markings and road signs will also reflect the light from the car headlights directly into the driver’s eyes, which is enough to guide the driver’s correct forward route.
- Cost and Energy Efficiency
While cost is not the sole determining factor, it is still a consideration. Installing and maintaining street lights along highways can be expensive, including the costs associated with electricity, infrastructure, and ongoing maintenance.
For example, in 2022, the total mileage of highways in China had already exceeded 170,000 kilometers. If all these highways were equipped with street lights, the enormous cost involved would be unimaginable. Not only that, the costs associated with equipment installation, labor, and ongoing maintenance are astronomical.
Moreover, highway lighting requires a significant amount of energy, and reducing energy consumption aligns with sustainability goals.
- Adequate Illumination
Highways are designed with specific lighting requirements in mind. Reflective road signs, reflective road markings, and the headlights of vehicles are typically sufficient to provide necessary illumination for safe driving at night. Highway design standards prioritize clear visibility of the road itself rather than the surrounding areas.
- Light Pollution
Highways often pass through or near residential areas. Excessive lighting from street lights can contribute to light pollution, which negatively impacts the environment and disrupts the natural habitat of wildlife. By reducing light pollution, it is possible to preserve the ecological balance and minimize the impact on surrounding communities.
- Maintenance Challenges
Installing and maintaining street lights on highways can pose logistical challenges. Highways cover long distances, often passing through remote or inaccessible areas. Maintaining an extensive network of street lights can be time-consuming and expensive, requiring regular inspections, bulb replacements, and repairs.
What are some examples of localized lighting on highways?
Localized lighting on highways refers to the installation of lighting fixtures in specific areas where enhanced visibility is required. Here are a few examples of localized lighting on highways:
Interchanges: Interchanges, where highways intersect with other major roads or ramps, often have localized lighting. This is done to improve visibility for drivers navigating complex junctions, ramps, and merging lanes.
Tunnels: Tunnels on highways typically have their own lighting systems to ensure proper visibility for drivers as they transition from the open road into the enclosed tunnel environment. These lights help drivers adapt to the change in lighting conditions.
Toll Plazas: Toll plazas, where drivers stop to pay tolls, often have lighting installations to provide adequate visibility for drivers and toll booth operators during nighttime operations.
Rest Areas and Service Stations: Rest areas and service stations along highways may have localized lighting to ensure the safety and convenience of drivers and passengers during nighttime stops. These lights illuminate parking areas, walkways, and facilities within the rest areas.
Construction Zones: Temporary lighting is often installed in construction zones on highways to improve visibility for both drivers and construction workers. These lights help drivers navigate through the work zone safely and provide illumination for ongoing construction activities.
Hazardous Areas: Certain sections of highways that are prone to hazards, such as sharp curves, steep grades, or areas with a high incidence of accidents, may have localized lighting to alert drivers and enhance safety in those specific areas.
Alternative solutions to improve visibility on highways at night
Vehicle Headlights: Vehicle headlights play a crucial role in providing illumination on highways at night. Drivers should ensure that their headlights are in proper working condition, aligned correctly, and set to the appropriate intensity for optimal visibility without causing glare.
Reflective Road Markings: Highways can be equipped with highly reflective road markings that enhance visibility. These markings reflect the headlights of vehicles, making the road lanes and boundaries clearly visible, even in low-light conditions.
Reflective Road Signs: Similarly, the use of reflective materials on road signs ensures that they are easily visible to drivers at night. Reflective coatings or retroreflective materials enable road signs to reflect light back towards the driver, enhancing their visibility.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS): ITS technologies can be employed to enhance nighttime visibility on highways. This may include dynamic message signs that provide real-time information, variable lighting systems that adjust brightness based on traffic conditions, or adaptive headlights that automatically adjust their direction and intensity to improve visibility.
Enhanced Roadside Markers: Installing reflective markers or delineators along the sides of highways can assist drivers in maintaining their lane position, especially during nighttime or adverse weather conditions. These markers reflect light from vehicle headlights, making them more visible to drivers.
Night Vision Systems: Some advanced vehicles are equipped with night vision systems that use infrared technology to detect objects beyond the reach of headlights. These systems display an enhanced view of the road on a screen inside the vehicle, providing improved visibility of potential hazards.
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