A bank of 130 new high-tech lights will glow into action for this first time this Monday night (12 September) along a rural state highway in Auckland's when the NZ Transport Agency throws the switch to start a trial testing a new generation of lights for the country's state highway network.
The 130 poles fitted with LED (light emitting diodes) lights along State Highway 22 between Drury and Pukekohe are being tested for the first time against the high pressure sodium lights traditionally used to make night time travel safer for road users.
"The trial's very much in its infancy and there's still a lot we have to find out, but LED lights have the potential to deliver safety, environmental and cost benefits for drivers, communities and the NZTA," says the Transport Agency's State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker.
Mr Parker says SH22 was chosen for the trial because of the high number of night time crashes along the highway. In the five years from 2006-10, there were 13 injury crashes (one person was killed, two were seriously injured, and 10 received minor injuries) at night.
"One of the objectives of the trial will be to measure what impact LED lighting has on the number of crashes along SH22," Mr Parker says. "LED technology could help deliver a safety dividend. One pole contains a bank of LED lights - if one fails, the rest pick up the load to maintain the same lighting output. When a traditional bulb blows, it can leave a darker area with reduced lighting levels."
Other potential benefits from LEDs include:-
Environment: Light pollution is reduced. LEDs have a more natural white light with lower ambience or surrounding "spill" compared with traditional yellow lights
Costs: LEDs last longer (possibly up to 20 years compared with 6 years for a standard lamp); power usage is considerably lower; maintenance and cleaning costs are reduced.
Efficiency: Light from LEDs spreads more evenly across a highway or pavement.
The NZTA, supported by its consultants BECA and Fulton and Hogan, will run the trail for several months. In addition to the impact on safety, it will also measure the cost and effectiveness of LED lighting compared with sodium lighting.
Mr Parker says no early decision will be made about whether or not to use LED lighting more widely.
"LED technology is developing rapidly and there is a chance for a wider roll-out, but we must be absolutely certain this will be an improvement to help those using our highways and those living near them," Mr Parker says.