Traffic Lights Can Prevent Unwanted Behaviour

Many people will have heard of the concept of nudging, which is a behavioural context refers to steering an individual’s behaviour in a given, desired direction. Nudging can act as an instrument for influencing an individual’s behaviour and choices. The behavioural design of the environment is the key to this, and lighting is a powerful tool. Here are some examples of how outdoor lighting, with small means, can make a huge difference.

They were looking down there anyway

Some years ago, the Netherlands started an initiative to become the world leader in street-embedded pedestrian lights. In 2017 the town of Bodegraven began a pilot project testing LED traffic signals in the sidewalks. The project involves strips of coloured lights deployed at the border of the sidewalk and intersection. Glowing green or red, the lights will let pedestrians know when to walk or stop. The idea was, that since the illuminated lines are right in the pavement, they’ll be seen by texting walkers with their heads down.

On the other side of the globe, in Australia, this is also a familiar scenario. Pedestrian distraction is an increasingly serious problem and every year, more than 30 pedestrians are killed on roads in Victoria only, and 600 badly injured. As a means of preventing this, flashing lights on footpaths at intersections has been installed, to gain the pedestrians’ attention and prevent accidents. The initiative has been well received, and it has also been discovered that it could make life a lot easier for people who are hearing impaired, as it’s not always possible to see the pedestrian light in thick crowds.

Suicide attempts at railway stations

Sadly, railway stations are not only associated with travels and commute. It is also a place where some people chose to end their lives. In Japan and China, this has been a problem for some time, and the governments have worked hard to find a solution to this unfortunate issue.

An innovative solution from Japan showed remarkable results. By installing blue LED-lights on train platforms, the suicide attempts dropped. In a paper presented in Science Direct, a comparative study spanning over 13 years, showed that platforms with blue lights, had a 71% lower suicide attempt rate, than platforms with no blue light installed. Also in Great Britain, this solution has proven to give the desired result.

A surprising, and previously unknown, a side effect from the installations is that the crime rate in the blue-lit areas also dropped. The reason for this might be that the light colour is new and unusual, causing people to act more cautiously in the area. Another explanation could be that blue is a light colour almost universally associated with a police presence, suggesting it is an area of stricter law enforcement. Regardless of which, the results are unanimously positive.

Scaring the villains away

Yet another field where the power of lighting can come in handy is Security lighting. It is a field within physical security that deters, or detects, intrusions or other criminal activity on a property. Here, lighting is integral to crime prevention through environmental design scaring the villains away.

Burglary, or attempted burglary, is very costly for building or business owners, and security lighting is designed to curb this by taking early action and thus avoiding or stopping crime before the damage is a fact. One common way of using light as a deterrent for outdoor safety is to connect the lighting installation with a motion sensor to flood the area with light when an intruder is detected.

Strong searchlights with a high light flow often disrupt the trespassers’ plans. The strong light also enables surveillance cameras to get a better picture of the intruders, building a better legal case if necessary. So in conclusion, keeping the right light on can make a huge difference for someone else. Let’s keep it shining.