Can You Get Street Lights Turned Off? (Try Doing This First)

Can You Get Street Lights Turned Off

A street light shining into your yard can be maddening—especially if it’s hindering your attempts to observe the night sky or impeding your sleeping habits. Can you get a street light turned off, though? 

In the case of an emergency, a city technician would be able to turn off one individual street light, but you would need an extremely valid reason. In most cases, the lights are controlled automatically by a light sensor or a timed main switch.

This means that it’s highly unlikely that a city technician would turn off one street light for a non-emergency. This article looks at how street lighting systems work and what your options are regarding having street lights turned off.

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Here’s a Quick Pro Tip!

A street light that is shining into your yard or house is annoying, to say the least. In the case that you can’t get the light turned off, you’ll have to resort to tactics that block the light instead.

Here are our top alternatives to block the light from a street light:

1. Blackout Curtains – Ideal for opening during the day and closing at night.

2. Outdoor Roller Shade – Perfect if you have a gazebo or another structure in between your house and the streetlight. 

3. Blackout Window Film – Ideal if you want to darken a room permanently.

Controlling Street Lights

Before asking whether you can turn a street light off, let’s first look at how street lights are controlled. Each light certainly does not have an individual switch as we do in our homes, so let’s examine the system.

Why Are Street Lights on All Night?

Streetlights offer security and safety to all pedestrians and vehicles on the roads. They increase visibility on the roads (and sidewalks), which prevents most accidents or injuries at night.

Streetlights also decrease the crime rate in the immediate vicinity since the potential perpetrators do not want to be seen. Brighter levels of light make people feel safer when walking along the road.

Can Street Lights Get Turned Off at Night?

It depends on the street light system that the district uses. If they’re designed to be switched on or off with a master switch, the street lights can theoretically be turned off at night.

However, if the street light works with a photoelectric sensor, it automatically switches on when it gets dark out, meaning it would be more difficult to switch it off at night.

Some experts argue that switching street lights off after midnight would be better.

How Are Street Lights Controlled?

Streetlights are controlled in different ways across different states. In most cases, the poles have light-sensitive photocells that automatically switch the street lights on or off.

Most street lights are connected via an underground wiring system, which allows a master control switch to turn the lights on or off.

However, the process is completely automatic and requires no manual intervention.

How Can You Turn off a Street Light?

If you want to turn off a street light, you must request permission from your local municipality. They would be able to switch off a specific light, or a specific street, with their main switch. 

Attempting to tamper with a street light to turn it off is illegal and would result in a penalty, at least. If you want to block the light of a street light, you can install blackout curtains in front of your windows. 

How Do You Temporarily Disable a Street Light?

To temporarily disable a street light, you need to contact the proper authorities and make a formal request. Tampering with a street light to try and disable it is unlawful, and you would get in some trouble.

If the light of the street light is bothering you, you could use another temporary solution and file a complaint with the municipality.

However, if it is an emergency and you need the light shut off immediately, you should call 911.

You might also enjoy our post on How to Get Street Lights Moved

Complaints Regarding Street Lights

Although street lights can greatly improve the security in our neighborhoods, they can be irritating. This section will discuss people’s various complaints regarding street lights and where you can direct these complaints.

Can You Complain About Bright Street Lights?

Light trespassing or light nuisance is a recognized issue in courts across the United States. It is a recognized issue within a court, so you have the right to complain to the municipality about a bright street light.

The owner of the street light (the municipality or a property management organization) will usually send someone out to adjust the angle of the street light or install a shield over the bulb.

The shield is designed to deflect the light from shining into neighboring windows.

You might also enjoy our post on Who Pays For Neighborhood Street Lights

What to Do About a Too-Bright Street Light Outside?

The easiest and the best thing to do is to call the electric company or the municipality and complain about the bright light. Ask them to send a technician to reduce the brightness or install a shield.

If they’re unwilling to help, you can consider alternative solutions. Since the light only comes on at night, you can install blackout curtains to block any outside light. These curtains can be opened and closed with ease.

How Do I Get a Street Light Moved?

To get a street light moved, you must contact the local municipality and file an official request. Chances are good that you would be held liable for the operation’s costs if approved.

It’s quite a lengthy and expensive process, so this should be your last resort. It could cost you up to $10,000 to move a street light.

If the bright light is bothering you, you could also plant a row of trees between the pole and your house to create a natural barricade.

Who to Complain to About Street Lights?

You can lodge any street light complaints to your local municipality. In most districts, they own and maintain street lights. If you have a problem with a too-bright light, they can install a shield or reduce the brightness of the light.

Most cities will have a designated phone number to contact if you have any complaints. You can google the phone number of your county clerk’s office and phone them with your complaint.

Your problem might be sorted out quickly in urban areas, while in smaller rural areas, it might take longer.

Overnight Lights

Recently there has been some debate about whether street lights should be shut off in the middle of the night when there are no cars or pedestrians on the roads.

Environmentalists have a strong argument, but so do the municipalities.

Should Street Lights Be Turned Off Overnight?

In most districts across the states, street lights are kept on throughout the night. This is done to improve the security and safety of pedestrians and motorists in the middle of the night.

However, recently there have been requests to turn the street lights off in the middle of the night.

The artificial light confuses the sleep and hunting patterns of nocturnal animals while also creating light pollution, which makes it very difficult to observe the stars and other planets.

Are Street Lights a Legal Requirement?

Most states have laws requiring public lighting to be maintained by various municipalities and electric companies. If the proper illumination is not provided, deductions shall be made from the amounts due to the lighting company.

The District of Columbia legislation is a great example of laws that are enforced throughout the states. The legislation focuses on proper illumination and the maintenance thereof.

In addition, it gives municipalities the authority to increase street lights as they see fit.

How Do You Get a Shield on a Street Light?

You should first discover who manufactures the street lights in your district. In most cases, they also manufacture shields for street lights. You will not be able to install the shield yourself, though, and you would need to contact the municipality.

You can explain to the clerk that the street light is shining into your yard, and you want to install a shield. Some districts might be more helpful than others, but they are obligated to assist you and send out a technician to install the shield.

Where Is the Sensor on a Street Light?

Most street lights have a black round knob on top of the head, which is the sensor controlling the light. This is known as a photocell and is most commonly used to automatically switch the light on at dusk and off at dawn.

Only some of the street lighting systems in the US use photocells, though some smaller districts still use a main switch that controls all the lights in a district.

Some outdoor lighting on your property can also use a photocell to turn on and off automatically.

You might also enjoy our post on Whether A Utility Company Can Deny You A Service

Safety Effects of Street Lights

Now let’s look at the safety effect that street lights have on our neighborhoods. Do they really help to reduce crime rates? We researched this topic, so you don’t have to. Let’s dive in.

Does Street Lighting Reduce Crime?

It has been scientifically proven that street lighting significantly reduces crime in residential and commercial areas. We can conclude that perpetrators are less likely to commit a crime if there is an increased risk of being seen.

According to UrbanLabs, a study done in New York City indicates a 36% decrease in ‘index crimes’ after new street lights were installed.

Street lights also reduce the number of fatal road accidents since motorists are far more likely to see each other.

Do People Feel Safer With Street Lights?

People definitely feel safer walking at night underneath the illumination of street lights. Being able to see our immediate surroundings is comforting to our most primal instinct – poor sight means exposure to predators.

Even though we do not have to fear predators lurking in the dark in the modern day, we still follow our instincts to protect ourselves from criminals.

Increased street lights also mean people are more likely to walk their dogs at night and stay active.

Does Leaving Outside Lights on Deter Burglars?

Leaving your outdoor lights on probably won’t deter burglars from targeting your house, especially if your yard is secluded from the street. Burglars might assume you’re not home since you didn’t turn off the lights.

A more effective method of deterring burglars is to use motion-activated lights outside your home. The lights turning on automatically might frighten the burglars off, assuming that they’ve been spotted.

Why Are Street Lights So Important?

Streetlights improve visibility at night for motorists on the road and pedestrians walking on the sidewalk. The illumination of the lights helps to prevent many fatal road accidents.

The lights also decrease the number of crimes committed in the vicinity since criminals are less likely to break the law if they might be seen.

The only downsides to street lights are light pollution and light trespassing.

Related Questions

Do Street Lights Have Motion Sensors?

Some districts in the states have integrated motion-activated sensors into their street lighting system. These lights dim down when no cars or people are detected to consume less electricity.

However, this system is rare since it would cost a pretty penny to install motion detection sensors on all the street lights across the US. Most street lights have been upgraded to LED bulbs to save energy.

Why Do Street Lights Stay On During the Day?

Sometimes technicians switch on all the street lights in an area during the day to do a routine check. This allows them to spot malfunctioning lights and fix them if needed. The lights will probably stay on until the next morning.

If you notice a street light staying on for more than 48 hours, you can report it by calling your local municipal office. The light might be unable to switch off and need repairing done by a technician.

Can You Turn off a Street Light With a Laser?

If the street light in question has a photocell sensor to detect light, technically, you can turn it off by pointing a strong laser at it. The laser will trick the sensor into thinking it is daytime and turn the light off.

Although, we’re not sure if this is exactly legal. If the light from a street light is bothering you, you can contact the county clerk to have a shield installed over the light.

A shield should help tremendously in reducing the light shining into your yard. 

Final Thoughts

Streetlights are part of a big system, and it would be quite difficult to get your municipality to switch off one specific light for any reason.

If the bright light is bothering you, there are alternative solutions to block the light. 

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