Metal thieves have stripped copper cabling from street lights in County Durham plunging drivers into darkness.
Sixteen lighting columns on the approach to the A181 junction with the A19 at Wellfield, near Peterlee, have been put out of action.
Thieves left live wires exposed to get to the cabling but Durham County Council said the columns have been made safe pending repairs by contractors.
The council’s corporate director for neighbourhood services, Terry Collins, said: “These thoughtless criminals have risked not only their own lives, but those of others.
“The exposed wiring left by the thieves carries a potentially lethal power charge and could easily be touched by unsuspecting children.
“In addition, the damage caused will cost the council a great deal of money to repair at a time when funding is very tight and an area of our highway has been left in the dark while this work is carried out.
“There have been at least 16 street lights targeted. All columns have been made safe.
“However the lighting on the A181 junction towards the A19 has been affected, until permanent repair work can be carried out.”
Durham Police are investigating the thefts.
Supt Bill Dutton said: “Metal theft is an enormous problem across the north east and we are determined to keep up the pressure on both the thieves, and those who are willing to accept their stolen goods.”