So, if the statistical value of a life is £2 million

Then was this worth the money:

A council which switches off street lights in the middle of the night has been urged to review the controversial money-cutting measure after a young woman pedestrian was killed by a car.

An inquest heard mother-of-five Cheryl Richards was run down as she walked home along an unlit section of a rural A-road at two o’clock in the morning.

The A361, near Hilperton, Wiltshire, was in complete darkness at the time because Wiltshire County Council decided three years earlier to switch off street lights from midnight to save £300,000 a year.

Crude and brutal calculation here but this is the way that it is and should be done. Statistical value of a life (£2 million or so is what the rail uses) times number of lives lost per year times saving from the activity/cost of the activity.

One death in three years? Not worth it. One in six years? About break even.

Yes, that’s assuming the death was solely caused by the lights going off, not just a contributing factor.

Tehre’s just no getting around the fact that there are opportunity costs.

14 thoughts on “So, if the statistical value of a life is £2 million”

  1. Of course, in this case, the solution is not to create artificially high energy costs. Saving £100k a year means a death every 20 years and any modern statistician could get round that…

  2. “The A361, near Hilperton, Wiltshire, was in complete darkness at the time …”

    Really? The car that ran her down didn’t have its headlights on then?

  3. “Yes, that’s assuming the death was solely caused by the lights going off, not just a contributing factor.”


    The inquest in Salisbury, Wilts, heard that Lee Sullivan, the driver of the Audi A3 which struck Miss Richards, had been drinking and the dead woman was not wearing any reflective clothing.

    However, coroner Ian Singleton ruled that it would have been “impossible” for motorists to avoid Miss Richards because of the “lack of street lighting”.

    Just another grandstanding coroner fancying himself a crusader for justice.

  4. So drunk ignores paths designed for pedestrians on road without pavement and wanders off grass verge onto road and it’s not their fault at all?

    Coroner Ian Singleton (him of Polar Bear death fame) is a grandstanding crusader of justice as Julia says. He should have called for the compulsory wearing of hi-vis clothing by all pedestrians, that would have got more publicity for the ego seeking coroner.

  5. There are ways of reducing the risk while still allowing people to get drunk and not wear reflective clothing. (Indeed, the vast majority of drinkers don’t wear reflective clothing; unless they arrived at the pub by bicycle). These might include building footpaths on the road, switching on half the streetlights at night, reducing the speed limit, or many other possibilities. It’s hardly a denial of personal responsibility, any more than airbags in cars or crash barriers on motorways.

    So no, it’s not the council’s fault; but yes there are things they could do to reduce the risk of it happening again.

  6. I used to walk home along unlit back roads drunk when I was in my teens. You learn to face oncoming traffic and when a car gets close, you practically lie in the hedge. Whatever you do, you get the f*ck off the road. If there is a patch with high banks, run along it at a time when no car is coming (and you get a few minutes warning at night). My guess is she was totally hammered, strayed onto the Tarmac, and relied upon the driver seeing her.

  7. @AndrewM, the council already had taken steps to reduce risk to pedestrians, there are underground paths for them to use. It’s just stupid people who ignore them to walk on the road without any thought about safety.

  8. I don’t get this switching all the lights off thing.

    I’ve seen places on the continent where say 3 out of 4 are switched off (where there is less need). Saves 75% of the cost, but still provides useful light.

  9. @TN – “You learn to face oncoming traffic” – we were all taught to walk on opposite side to the traffic on country lanes etc, so as to be facing the oncoming cars.

    I have noticed that this piece of wisdom seems to have fallen out of favour these days.

  10. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Well the NPV of £300000 a year is £6 million at a 5% discount rate so they’re still 4 million quid in the black.

  11. you can walk towards the traffic and still get hit from behind if the driver is staying away from his verge a bit too much.
    Are headlights much use – can you stop in time just using therm to give you a cue.
    Or will they encourage you to swerve off the road and so die.

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