Health & Well-being21st December 2013

Lights Out for Dog Walkers

With street lighting being turned off to save money, deaf dog owners face additional dangers.

by Sarah Lawrence

With today being the shortest day of the year and as I watch our little puppy Alfie charging around the room, I find myself thinking about a news item about the number of street lights that are going to be turned off around the UK. According to leading pet brand Flexi Lead, one million street lights are being switched off in a move to save money. 

Needless to say, for dog owners across the UK, the switch off will affect their late afternoon and early evening dog walks. The Royal Society for thr Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) warn that the decision could see an increase in the accidents through trips and falls for dog walkers. Taking the dog for a walk or a run in the park is one of those sweet, innocent activities that are good for the mind and the body. However, as a deaf woman, I have always been nervous about going out in the dark on my own and so the switch off is going to affect me more than most.

Being deaf, I rely almost entirely on my eye sight to warn me of danger and to know what is happening around me. An inability to do that because Local Authorities and City Councils are switching off will affect my decision making about when and where I take litlle Alfie for a walk. I dont expect the 'swich off' decision to be changed because of deaf dog owners across the UK, but I do ask that the authoritires understand the impact that these decisions have on deaf people and deaf dog owners in particular.

News Release

The new research conducted by leading pet brand flexi lead has found that the UK’s ten million dog owners could be walking into danger following changes made to one million street lights across England. Flexi’s research reveals that 91% of English councils surveyed have now embarked on light saving initiatives which means street lights are being dimmed, part-switched or switched off completely across the country. 

With only seven hours of daylight due on Saturday December 21st - the darkest and shortest day of the year - the window for the UK’s ten million dog owning households to take a stroll in the light is small, meaning instead of going for a walk in the park, many will end up going for a walk in the dark. In response, flexi lead and safety charity the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) are using the longest night of the year to remind dog owners to be ‘Bright at Night’.

By researching the street lighting plans of councils across England, flexi found that in addition to 33% of councils switching lights to part-time lighting, 58% of councils have dimmed street lights and 11% of councils have switched off street lights completely. Of the total councils surveyed, this amounts to a reduction to around one million street lights across England, in a move by councils to reap cost savings and environmental benefits.

Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: “Street lighting improves safety, and any decrease in lighting increases the risk, especially for pedestrians, including dog walkers. As well as it being harder for drivers to see people walking in dark, there’s also more potential for walkers to trip and fall over kerb edges, uneven paving and unseen obstacles on the path. 
With many councils switching off or dimming street lights in some areas, there are simple steps that dog walkers can take to protect themselves and their pet from any increased risk. Firstly, find out where the level of street lighting has changed in your area and the times at which the lights will be switched off or dimmed. You can then try to avoid walking your dog in these areas and at these times. Then think about increasing your visibility, carry a mobile phone with you and let someone know where you’re heading.”

As well as issuing the warning, Flexi has also created a downloadable fact sheet on its website which lists a number of things owners could do ahead of stepping out, including wearing high visibility clothing and keeping control of your dog - not letting it off the lead unless in a safe, well-lit area.

Adrian Hind, spokesperson from Flexi comments, “Safety and product innovation are key parts of our business, and having created products such as our NEON lead, boasting highly reflective components, to provide our customers with increased visibility and safety when they’re out and about - we felt we could provide further support for those facing dog walking in the dark. 

“Walking a dog is and should be an enjoyable task, but the shortest day of the year can pose worries for people that can’t get out in daylight – especially if lighting in their area has been switched off. 39% of UK households are dog owners so this issue will be affecting a lot of people, by urging owners to take extra or even new measures at this time of year, we’re hopefully giving people peace of mind for Saturday and for the rest of the winter months.”

Article by Sarah Lawrence

posted in Deaf Lifestyle / Health & Well-being

21st December 2013