Dark skies and ignorance

The local paper, the Isle of Wight County Press, has finally caught up with the Isle of Wight Dark Skies story and published a piece about it today (better late than never!). However, if one of the comments, by regular commenter ‘Lee Majors’, is anything to go by, it shows what VAS, DfDS, the IDA and amateur astronomers are up against because I have heard and read this type of ill-informed comment before in the media. I’ll address each point (the original comments are in italics).

Liam, it sounds nice having all the street lights turned out, but let us for one moment imagine it shall we?
Old people walking back from bingo, mugged in the darkness or falling over ill and not seen.

Get a torch and take care. But we are NOT saying turn all the lights off! Besides, highly unlikely that someone will be mugged in the pitch dark. They’ll probably get mugged in the full glare of a badly-directed light, though, when the would-be mugger lurking in deep shadows caused by badly-directed and over-bright lighting gets an opportunity to size up his or her victim yet the victim can’t see the potential assailant.
I can speak from personal experience here, I was assaulted (not mugged) in Southampton in early 2004, in the full glare of the city’s street lights, which has made me wary of brightly-lit places.

Old people tripping over potholes and loose kerbstones.

Again – Get a torch and take care. But we are NOT saying turn all the lights off!

People tripping over outside of shops and suing the shop owner for compensation.

Get a torch and take care. But we are NOT saying turn all the lights off! Can you see a pattern emerging?
 I’m getting deja vu, here. :/ 

Pitch black streets, ideal for breaking in to cars, nobody to see you.Pitch black front and rear gardens, ideal for breaking in to houses.

Rubbish. Funny as it may seem, criminals are human like the rest of us. They also need lights to see by and don’t have superior night vision to the rest of us. According to the CfDS, there is no evidence that lights lead to any change in crime levels and could, in fact, actually increase crime.  CfDS: Lighting and Crime.

You mention accidents, ok, yes drive slower, but how are you meant to see that small guy dressed in black around a dark blind bend when once there was light?

Errr….headlights on cars? Yep. And the pedestrian needs a high vis vest (dead cheap at your local builders’ merchant or DIY store) plus the aforementioned torch. And drivers taking care is a pretty radical thought, too.

If the island stopped building new estates in fields and the countryside then, we would have less light pollution!

True!! Very true, in fact. I 100% agree with him! But we still need existing lights to be replaced by full cut-off fixtures and the light to only go where it is needed.

Try turning every other street light off at night. or have only two in a road on.

I don’t think it is possible to turn every other light off. Or, a far better idea, have lovely new LED road lighting, and that is exactly what we’re getting, which is full-cut off and shines only where it is needed. Therefore, the general public still get their lighting and we astronomers still get dark skies.
That said, NO ONE is saying turn all the lights off. We don’t want to alienate people. All that is being said, is shine the light where it is needed, i.e. downwards and not up into the sky or onto other people’s property.