Public opinion appears split on whether Hilton Head Island should add more street lights to improve road safety, a survey by The Island Packet newspaper found.
The online poll conducted by the newspaper asked readers: “Some believe more street lighting on Hilton Head Island would improve road safety at night. Others argue lighting would hurt the island’s natural beauty. In your opinion, would adding lighting on Hilton Head Island be a good or bad thing?”
Of the 1,407 total responses, about 47.5 percent — 668 people — answered that more lighting would be good, while about 45.5 percent — 640 people — responded it would be bad. About 7 percent — 99 people — were undecided.
But the survey also found that where respondents live appeared to have played a significant role in their answers, with people having a primary home on the island more likely to oppose additional street lighting. Of the 604 respondents who listed Hilton Head as their home, 48 percent said they would oppose it, while 42 percent were in support.
In contrast, of the 257 Bluffton residents identified in the survey, 60 percent said they would favor more lighting on the island, compared to 32 percent opposing it.
Those who specified that they live in another South Carolina county or out of state also were more likely to favor additional lighting on Hilton Head, with 50 percent in support and 42 percent in opposition.
The question also led to strong opinions posted on social media. Here are some responses from readers to The Island Packet’s Facebook page:
“In my opinion, lives outweigh beauty!” wrote Janice Crosby Austin. “There is a way I am sure to put up lighting that will keep everyone safe and that is done in a tactful way to ensure the natural beauty of the Island. This is coming from someone who has lived here my whole life, all 54 years of it. I have watched the Island grow from mostly dirt roads to what you see today. I feel sure that lighting wouldn’t hurt the natural beauty of Hilton Head anymore than the bumper to bumper traffic has. It is because the Island has grown to the extent that it has today, it is also, the responsibility of that same community to do what it takes to keep those same people safe!”
“More lighting is definitely needed,” Lori Ross said. “It is impossible to see at night. I think we need to balance the natural beauty issue with public safety; especially given the predominantly elder population that lives here.”
“The new style LED lighting is much less intrusive and more directional,” Steve Jensen wrote. “”You can still have dark skies and lit roads. If you really want to be state of the art, put them on motion sensors so only the part of the road being used is lit.”
“More lights...driving at night on this island is the worst thing about living here,” said Rose Nigiria Taylor. “I even hear tourists complain about the lighting. Not too many lights, but just enough. How can that be a bad thing?”
“Horrible idea normally put forth by people who have come from highly lit places,” wrote Mark Morrison. “They want to change the area’s natural charm to be more like what they left and had become accustomed to rather than adapt to the area to which they moved. The natural charm includes the nighttime with limited lighting. There is nothing like seeing the vast amount of stars not just the brightest constellations. Crossing the bridges leading to the island and seeing the huge glow of light pollution Savannah emits secures my position on this matter.”
“Night has its own beauty, just as much as the daytime,” Ken Loskamp said. “It is called light pollution because it pollutes the beauty of the night and skyline, even the sunset itself. You cannot see the stars, the moon reflecting off the water, etc. If lighted streets are important to you, and you can’t handle driving at night, don’t drive at night or move to a big city, but don’t ruin the very things that make HHI so beautiful.”
“I was attracted to Hilton Head because of how it is,” Paul Anderson wrote. “I like the trees, the lack of road side signs, the darkness of the night, in all I like the natural setting that is Hilton Head Island. I would hate to see “the Island” lighted up like one big shopping mall or something.”
“No lights because of the sea turtles!” said Maranda Bostian. “Put a light on your bike or stay off the roads after dark because truth is, drivers are distracted!”
“This is one of the reasons people move here,” Lillie Whyte wrote. “If you want more lights go to a city.”
About this series
The Island Packet and The Beaufort Gazette requested bike and pedestrian collision data from the S.C. Department of Highway Safety through the state’s Freedom of Information Act.
All together, reporters analyzed close to 7,000 fields of information related to every Beaufort County bicycle and pedestrian collision from 2006 through 2016. In addition, more than 55 people were interviewed over three months on road safety issues in the county.
In case you missed it: Part One, addressing commonly cited causes for cyclist and pedestrian deaths, can be found here.