Drivers ‘blinded’ by bus stop light therapy

After an energy company in northern Sweden fitted several bus stops with phototherapy lights to combat residents’ winter depression, complaints from 'blinded' bus drivers have led the firm to pull some plugs.

Drivers 'blinded' by bus stop light therapy

“Yesterday afternoon we got some complaints from bus drivers who said the light was too bright and they asked us to shut down two of them,” head of marketing at Umeå Energi Anna Norrgård told The Local.

“We want the drivers to be safe on the roads, so we removed both of the lights where the contrast with the dark was the strongest.”

The company installed the so called anti-SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) lights in 30 of the town’s bus shelters last week in an effort to combat the short days, lack of sunlight, and residents’ depression.

Residents of Umeå, which lies more than 500 kilometres north of Stockholm, only get some five hours of sunlight at this time of year, leaving many northern Swedes lacking in vitamin D.

The Umeå Energi company decided to take matters into their own hands, with lamps run by renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower.

“We wanted to show we care about the people living here in Umeå at this dark time of the year,” company CEO Göran Ernstson told The Local on Tuesday.

“People get depressed if they don’t see the light.”

Following The Local’s report, the story made headlines around the world including on the BBC, CNBC and even as far as Australia – much to the astonishment of the Umeå Energi team.

“We actually hoped the Swedish media would pick it up, but it really surprised us that the story became such big news around the world,” Norrgård said.

Light therapy is a known treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder by compensating for lost sunlight exposure and resetting the body’s internal clock.

Also known as heliotherapy, it can be also used to treat skin, sleep and psychiatric disorders.

Despite complaints from a few bus drivers, the company believes most Umeå residents are pleased with the artificial northern lights.

“We’ve been getting a lot of positive feedback from people who are usually really tired at this time of year. We’re absolutely thrilled that it’s been such a success,” she told The Local.

Oliver Gee

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