Road Lighting: needs, acquisition criteria and specific products

By: Secom
19 de May, 2021
Reading time: 10 min

Lighting on roads is an issue of vital importance, since the correct choice of materials and their installation can considerably reduce the possibility of accidents.

This article addresses...


In fact, per one study from 2018 carried out by the Spanish Road Association (AEC), 90% of luminaires at that time were found not to give sufficient light. The following were the main problems in this respect:

  • 53 % left patches of shadow
  • 18 % gave too much light, leading to unnecessary energy consumption
  • 72 % didn’t give enough light, affecting traffic safety

In short, the report made it very clear that lighting on motorways, dual carriageways and roads of all kinds in Spain is outdated. Therefore, it is essential to gain an understanding of what the current road lighting needs are.

Lighting needs on roads and motorways

In general terms, there are four basic needs: traffic safety, good visibility, the absence of glare, and a reduction in light pollution.

All actions on the part of governments and installation companies should, at very least, be directed towards meeting these requirements, which we shall expand upon below.

Traffic safety

It has been made abundantly clear that adequate lighting on roads and motorways is the best way of guaranteeing traffic safety. It is easy to understand why, and the data backs this up: the European Motorist Association (AEA) found that inadequate or insufficient road lighting increases the risk of accidents by 30%.

Poor lighting also decreases visual acuity and range of vision by 70%. As such, this increases fatigue, which constitutes a major risk when it comes to accidents.

The AEC has also brought attention to this problem. Specifically, it has shown that accidents that occur on dark roadways are six times more serious than those that take place on roads with adequate lighting. It also maintains that adequate road lighting is capable of reducing accidents at night by up to 35%


Good visibility for drivers

Of course, a major part of what traffic safety consists of is good visibility for drivers. This depends, clearly, on the lighting of the driver’s own vehicle but also no less on the lighting on the road.

The following answers were received during a survey conducted by RACE and Bosch, which asked drivers about visibility problems on the road:

  • 25 % couldn’t gauge distances equally well at night
  • 24 % have been surprised by a pedestrian crossing the road at night
  • 42 % have been surprised by an animal crossing the road at night
  • 57 % have had to stop because of rain, hail or fog

In conclusion, the night and adverse weather conditions are two important factors affecting visibility for drivers. Road lighting, as far as possible, must be used to mitigate the inevitable poor visibility brought about under these circumstances.



Avoiding glare

Glare can be reduced, to a large degree, by actions or measures taken by drivers themselves. However, once again, road lighting is equally determinate. One important measure to take is to equip luminaires with diffusers that reduce their intensity and luminescence, but without reducing their efficacy. Glare can also be reduced by applying secondary optics that extend the average range of the beam of light, minimizing the effects of glare.

Additionally, it is important to bear in mind that the age of luminaires can affect the colour temperature of the light emitted, which brings with it a reduction in the flow or quantity of light emitted. The presence of other sources of reflecting or shining lights, such as digital billboards, can also cause glare.


Energy savings

The applicable regulations are of particular relevance in this section, specifically those concerning energy efficiency of exterior light installations. These regulations work towards two ends:

  • Increasing energy efficiency and saving, as well as reducing CO2 emissions.
  • Reducing light pollution and dangerous or irritating light to the fullest degree possible.

Acquisition criteria to bear in mind

Not all luminaires are equal. When choosing the right ones to meet regulations and recommendations about the lighting of motorways and roads, we need to adhere to the following criteria:

  • Construction materials. Luminaire materials must be durable and adequately protected, for example, aluminium with a polyester powder coat.
  • Optics. These should vary between 80° and 150°, and should be protected with a methacrylate finish in such a way as to ensure the best amount of light.
  • Power. From 25 W to 200 W, the right power will always depend on the specific needs of the roadway.
  • Efficiency and sustainability. Aside from being designed with efficiency and energy saving in mind, the ideal lighting systems for roads would be equipped with drivers that allow for different levels of regulation.
  • Maintenance. Normally, maintenance of this kind of luminaire is minimal, as long as they are not older than their recommended shelf life or that they are not exposed to excessively low or high temperatures where they are installed (below -20 °C and above 40 °C).

Specialised SECOM products

In SECOM we have a wide array of luminaires for public lighting systems on roads and motorways. In particular, the Ecodut K1 and Ecodut K2 stand out, since they are equipped with the most efficient LEDs and they minimise light pollution, creating a better-quality night sky.

In summary, road lighting is a subject that entails many legal and environmental questions. For that reason, referring to experts is the best way of guaranteeing compliance with these regulations and, most of all, ensuring traffic safety.


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