Here’s why street lights suddenly turn off when you drive past

Ever been freaked out when driving past a street light and it suddenly switches on or off?

No it’s not Eskom, but rather an unexplained phenomena known as Street Light Interference (SLI).

Depending on who you believe and your level of skepticism, there are a number of causes of SLI:


The Natural

The main “cause” of the phenomena seems to be confirmation bias – people looking for signs that aren’t there.

“Author Massimo Polidoro writing in Skeptical Inquirer has considered claims of SLI to be examples of correlation not implying causation, or of confirmation bias: people are much more likely to notice when a nearby street light turns on or off than they are to notice a light turning on or off at a distance, or a street light in a steady state at any distance.”

There’s is also a strong likelihood the interference is Mechanical.

“If the connection between the lamp and its socket is faulty and gets interrupted for some reason, even for a fraction of a second, the bulb turns off and then it will need a few minutes to turn on again.”

“A contact, especially if already faulty, can be interrupted even by some minor vibration, like a kid kicking the lamp post, a large truck passing in the street, wind rocking the bulb, and so on.”

But not everyone believes that SLI can be so easily explained.

The Supernatural

“The fact that so many witnesses are making claims which seem to involve a Street Light Interference (SLI for short), that they are doing so in apparent good faith, and doing so independently of one another and without awareness, that the effect may constitute a phenomenon in its own right, these circumstances encourage us to proceed on the basis that SLI, whatever its nature, does indeed occur,” says Hilary Evans, researcher and founder of “Project SLIDE”.

One possible supernatural explanation are Energy Fields.

“Eyewitnesses report that the turning off of the lamp happened while they were tired, stressed, furious, or sad. Some others, however, think it might be some kind of static electricity produced by their body.”

While some may quickly point to electromagnetic energy and/or static electricity, the only form of energy known to science produced by the human body comes via food and breathing.

Another possible explanation is The Power of Suggestion – people “willing” something to happen and then it happens.

Whatever the actual cause may be, it can still freaks you out when you do notice it.


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  • daBoss

    Happened a few times to me :/ not sure why…

  • Joe Black

    Those lights are sometimes quite sensitive to vibration. Anybody who grew up on a small town knows that mostly if you give the pole a good whack just about any streetlight will go off for a while. And if a kid can do it my guess is a bit of resonance from the vibrations sound/road-contact of a driving car could do it too.

    The right temperature, the right pole, the right car… Out it goes.

    Well that’s my theory.

  • what, what? What a waste of time writing this. The cables are loose, move on. nothing supernatural has happened. it’s a fault on the cable or connection.

  • John Ward

    I have had this happen to me numerous times. It is always with the same lights and is consistently repeatable. It has happened mostly with street lights that I drive past. There was one walking path light at a college I used to attend that would consistently turn off every time I approached it. Another was a light in an apartment complex parking lot that would turn off when I walked near it. If this was simply bad connections combined with vibrations then it would not be consistent nor would it happen when just walking past the light. I have at times been tempted to take the sensor off of one of these lights to do some experiments with it, but the need to know how this phenomena occurs does not outweigh my desire to avoid being arrested for stealing it. If there is a controlled study of this phenomena underway, I would like to participate in it as I seem to be able to consistently trigger some sensors. This could possibly lead to the discovery of a new type of detector for a hitherto unknown neural energy. My dad, when he was working as an engineer for Motorola in the 60’s, worked on trying to find the cause manufacturing defects in diodes. The defect was an inconsistent capacitance in the diode that would cause RF circuits to malfunction. He discovered the problem and that discovery led to the invention the varactor diode. Point being, you never know where the search for answers will lead you.

  • Ben Roberts

    This has happened to me way too many times to be a coincidence. It’s always about the same distance from the light as well, whether I’m walking or driving.

  • Kasey Flynn

    This happens to me a lot too. Many different lights @ different times. Sometimes the same lights .. but different times. I’ve purposely measured it.

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