The open landscape of the New Forest where ponies, cattle, donkeys, sheep and pigs roam free is one of the distinctive features of the New Forest National Park. This is one of the few areas in England, especially in the busy and developed south, where drivers often come face-to-face with animals on the road, both in daylight and at night.
The animals' free grazing activity across the forest helps shape the landscape we know and love today.
The highest number of deaths caused by road traffic accidents was 313 in 1962, and even as recently as 1991 there were 181 deaths. Despite higher numbers of animals and increased traffic the death toll fell to around 100-120 from 1992 probably in part due to the introduction of the 40mph speed limit zone across the Open Forest.
Further reductions proved difficult but in 2007 the Animal Accident Reduction Group was formed to improve analysis of the accident statistics and coordinate the actions of the various organisations involved. This group is attended by representatives from the New Forest National Park Authority, the Verderers/Agisters, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Constabulary, Forestry Commission, the New Forest Trust, New Forest Association, British Deer Society and the Commoners Defence Association.
You can see how the number of accidents each year has changed since 1985 by downloading the data sheet. Every animal killed is a great loss to the Forest, and to its owner. However, the encouraging news is that 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015 all had less than 100 animals killed or injured. The number of animals grazing on the Forest is currently relatively high which increases the likelihood of accidents, but the number and percentage killed was at its lowest ever in 2015. The challenge is, of course, to reduce the number of accidents every year, so we are always looking for new ideas.
We have recently updated various maps of animal accidents over the last five years:
- On the 'road density' map, you can see which roads were worst over the last five years. Often these are the roads that carry most traffic.
- The 'species' map shows where accidents involving the different types of commoners animals occurred during the last five years. By using the menu on the left hand side, you can turn on and off the different types of animals and see at what time of day the accidents happened.
- The other map shows all the types of animals together, but you can compare each of the last five years.
The pony and foal deaths download shows how vulnerable foals are in the summer months.