More street lights would bring safety, security to Saratoga

February 2, 2013 — by Michelle Leung and Jane Park

 The lack of streetlights in Saratoga has always been one of the town’s most noticeable features. Some streets, such as Lexington Avenue and Franklin Avenue, have no lights and are pitch black at night. Although the absence of streetlights appeals to those who enjoy a sleepy, small-town atmosphere, adding street lights can provide substantial benefits.

Even so, many residents are still reluctant to consider installing street lights. Many argue that the initial and maintenance costs of streetlights would drain the city economically.

However, the safety of the residents is infinitely more important than the cost. There are also many street lights available that are more cost efficient than previous models of lights.

For example, LED lights have life spans almost 50 times that of incandescent or compact fluorescent light bulbs. They produce less than half the waste of other types of lights. They also cost less than half that of other light bulbs.

Street lights make it easier for drivers to see pedestrians, bikers and animals in the dark. They also allow residents to see where they are going and provide security lacking in darker areas for the community.

In a study done by the University of Michigan, researchers found that pedestrian fatalities are up to 6.75 times more likely in the dark than in the light. Another study done by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing shows that crime also increases within a lack of street lights.
Installing street lights ensures safety and security, and would be a long-term investment that could benefit Saratoga for years.

Another concern about the installation of street lights is that lights are not environmentally friendly.

In the past, lights have disrupted views of the night sky, interrupted migration patterns of birds and used incredible amounts of energy. However, recent innovations have made it possible to install lights that will save energy, allow an uninterrupted view of the sky and leave birds alone.

For example, solar-powered lights can eliminate the majority of energy costs. Low-pressure sodium lights can be easily filtered out of telescopes for viewing. Hoods over the lights can limit the scope of the light to a smaller, specific area. Dimmer forms of lights both save energy and don’t interfere with wildlife.

Because of the greater severity of issues involved in the lack of street lighting, installing street lights creates many more benefits than negatives.

Nearby cities have already made improvements to their lighting systems. In 2010, Cupertino upgraded its 2,950 High Pressure Sodium lights to brighter, cost efficient Induction Fluorescent lights. Cupertino.org estimates that these lights have already reduced the city’s utility bill by 40 percent.

Saratoga needs to join cities like Cupertino and, for the safety and security of all its residents, install more street lights.

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