Safety effects of reducing freeway illumination for energy conservation

Document Type


Publication Date

September 2008


The addition of illumination where none was present is generally believed to have a positive effect on motor vehicle safety; reducing the frequency, as well as the severity of crashes. The operational cost of illumination, however, can make it a candidate for conservation during periods of high energy costs. In response to a forecasted energy shortage, the Oregon Department of Transportation selectively reduced illumination on interstate highways as part of an energy-saving effort. The reductions occurred at 44 interchanges and along 5.5 miles of interstate highway. This paper presents the results of a crash-based analysis of the changes in safety performance using an empirical-Bayes observational methodology. The study found an increase in reported crashes where the lineal lighting was reduced both in total crashes (28.95%, P = 0.05) and injury night crashes (39.21%, P = 0.07). Where full interchange lighting was reduced to partial lighting, a 2.46% increase (P = 0.007) in total night crashes was observed. Injury night crashes, however, decreased by 12.16% (P < 0.001) though day injury crashes also decreased at these locations. Unexpectedly, for interchanges where illumination was reduced from partial plus to partial, a 35.24% decrease (P < 0.001) in total crashes and 39.98 (P < 0.001) decrease in injury night crashes was found, though again, day crashes also decreased.

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