Driver Chris Johnson is at the forefront of a safety campaign to have motorway lights turned back on during dark winter months.
Assessor Mr Johnson has already witnessed “near miss” accidents in recent weeks, including a dramatic incident where the car directly in front of him spun out of control after hitting standing water impossible to see in the unlit conditions.
“I’m not the only person who thinks the lights should be used,” said Mr Johnson, of Gorrell Close, Spenbrook. “I’ve tried to put the point to the Highways Agency and the county council, but can’t get any response.
“We all know about the need to save money, and that the lights were turned off to cut costs, but there has to be commonsense.”
Control of the lighting on the M65 is split between the Highways Agency and Lancashire County Council, which controls from junction 11 to 14.
The Highways Agency said it blacked out roads as its contribution to cutting the nation’s carbon footprint. The lights were permanently switched off along the 5.5 mile stretch between the Dunkenhalgh at Junction 7 and Junction 10 at Burnley on March 29th, 2011. It said the money saved could be used elsewhere in the country where it would have a “more significant safety benefit and potentially save more lives.”
“They are risking lives to save money,” said Mr Johnson. “The roads are lethal in dark, rainy conditions. You only have to think about the weather over the last couple of weeks.”
Mr Johnson’s journeys frequently involve using unlit stretches of road, both on the M65 at Burnley and the M66 at Bury, where the lights were also switched off.
“People are working longer and harder, and there is a lot of heavy traffic at 7pm,” he said. “There are some busy junctions. Having a motorway blacked out when it is busy and when there are poor driving conditions is not safe.”
A statement from the Agency said the lights were switched as part of a national programme contributing to its efforts to reduce its carbon footprint.
“Sites were chosen using strict criteria including having a good safety record,” it said.
“If this section of motorway had never been lit then, under guidance revised by the Agency in 2007, it would not meet the criteria for new lighting. Indeed there are long stretches of the motorway network throughout England which have never had lighting at all.
“Importantly, as part of the programme, junctions remain lit. We, of course, have been monitoring the programme and there is nothing to suggest the initiative along the M65 has increased the risk of incidents or accidents.”
Mr Johnson’s campaign to restore the lights already has the backing of Pendle MP Andrew Stephenson.