Does changing to brighter road lighting improve road safety? Multilevel longitudinal analysis of road traffic collision frequency during the relighting of a UK city

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • St James University Hospital, The Leeds Teaching Hospital Trust, Beckett Street, Leeds, UK.
  • University Institute of Clinical Chemistry, Inselspital, Bern University Hospital and University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland.


BACKGROUND: A step change in the night environment is taking place, with the large-scale installation of bright, broad-spectrum road lighting such as white light-emitting diodes (LEDs). One justification for this is a reduction in road traffic collisions (RTCs). This study aimed to estimate the effect of new lighting on personal injury RTCs within a large UK city.

METHODS: We analysed a 9-year time series of weekly RTC personal injury counts in 132 areas of the city using multilevel modelling. The RTC rate over a full 24-hour period was the primary outcome; darkness and daylight RTC rates were secondary. The background change in RTC rate was separated from the change associated with the number of newly installed bright lamps by including a polynomial underlying time trend for the logarithm of the mean number of collisions per week for each area. The study was based on a rigorous, predesigned and archived protocol.

RESULTS: Within-area coefficients for the broad lighting effect were positive; as the number of bright lamps in an area increased, so did the RTC rate. The estimate for the increase in the within-area 24-hour RTC rate is 11% (95% CI 2% to 20%). The estimate of darkness-only RTCs is 16% (95% CI 2% to 32%). If the effect of lighting on darkness RTC rate is adjusted by that for daylight, one obtains 4% (95% CI -12% to +23%).

CONCLUSION: No evidence was found for bright lamps leading to an improvement in road safety in any of the analyses. For this city, introducing brighter road lighting may have compromised safety rather than reducing harm.

Bibliographic note

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY. Published by BMJ.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-472
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health
Issue number5
Early online date2 Mar 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2020


  • traffic, injuries, multilevel modelling