A UAE University tests street lights to improve pedestrian safety.
Illuminating study of UAE street lights
ABU DHABI // Along an empty half-kilometre stretch of road on the university's campus, Dr Riad Saraiji is testing the effectiveness of different street lights.
Among them are high-pressure sodium lamps, metal headlight bulbs and light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
He lines up volunteers, some in black abayas, to simulate pedestrian traffic in the shadows. Then he instructs drivers to approach them at slow speeds, paying close attention to how long it takes for motorists to notice people in the street.
The goal is to determine not only the best type of lighting for visibility, but also the best locations for pedestrian crossings, and the best illumination around obstructions such as date palm trees.
The research findings will be given to local urban planning and traffic departments.
"Drivers are not expecting pedestrians to appear, as their mind is not very focused on that, and pedestrians think the drivers can see them. It is a dangerous mix," said Dr Saraiji, an associate professor of architectural engineering at the university.
"The UAE in particular needs to place even greater importance on street lighting because so many female residents here wear black and there is no way that they can be seen."
Research indicates that fatal crashes are seven times more likely in darkness than during the day, and about 60 per cent of accidents happen at places other than junctions.
Traffic accident rates are considerably higher in the UAE than other parts of the world.
Dr Saraiji's research involves retrofitting existing lights to avoid shadows on the streets, and moving pedestrian crossings to avoid moving or cutting nearby trees.
The height of the light source can determine how the illumination hits a pedestrian's face to make it more visible to drivers, and sooner.
Most of the street lights in the UAE are yellow, making colours more difficult to detect than if they were lit white, Dr Saraiji said.
His calculations have already been published in international journals and presented at conferences, and he is currently conducting experiments to test them on a campus road that is closed off and dedicated for the study.
He expects the research to take about eight months before the results are passed along to municipalities for implementation.
"The goal is to determine the best layout of street lights in relation to the landscape, the trees, the vines, billboards, crossings and pedestrians," he said.
"There is a science to it. It is all interrelated, and as part of urban planning you really cannot design one without considering the other."