Dramatic rise in animal traffic deaths as winter approaches

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Published Tuesday 22 October 2013

As the clocks go back at the end of October drivers are being urged to take extra care when driving across the New Forest this winter in a bid to halt the startling rise in pony and cattle road deaths

There have been 48 animal traffic deaths so far this year, up to 30 September, an increase of 20 per cent compared to the same period in 2012. During winter’s shorter daylight hours animals will be even more vulnerable.

With animals less visible at the beginning and end of the day, drivers should be especially cautious if they journey through the National Park during these periods, and make sure they stick to safety measures designed to prevent accidents at all times.

Organisations represented on the New Forest Animal Accident Reduction Group have implemented a range of safety plans in an effort to reduce the number of incidents, including:

  • Reflective pony collars
  • Traffic calming, including pinch points
  • Changing road signs, designed to catch the attention of regular road users
  • Speed enforcement by the police on known high-risk routes
  • Publicity and education of the dangers posed by roaming ponies and cattle.

However, not all safety techniques are appropriate in the national park, given the important role of ponies as the ‘architects of the Forest’. This applies to fencing in particular, as the lack of fences across the Open Forest allows ponies to graze freely and cultivate the national park’s unique landscape.

Nigel Matthews, Community and Visitor Services Manager at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘After the clocks have changed, many of us will be driving home in the dark and therefore be at greater risk of colliding with an animal.

‘A lot of ponies wear reflective collars but many don’t, and of course you won’t see a collar if the pony is facing away from you. Look carefully ahead for any animals on or beside the road. They have no road sense, so expect them to step in front of you at the last moment. Drive slowly enough so you can be sure you can stop, especially if there is traffic coming the other way.

‘It’s not just the animals that are at risk in an accident. If the driver is speeding the results could be catastrophic for their passengers and vehicle too.’

Head Agister Jonathan Gerrelli said: ‘Autumn is upon us once again, and as the dark evenings are now here, we must all be more aware when driving across the Forest.  

‘The past few months have seen an increase in the number of accidents involving our Forest stock, compared with the same period last year, so we would ask all drivers to take more care when on the Forest roads.

‘As always, if you are involved in, or witness an accident with a pony, cow, or any other Forest animal, then please call the police so that an Agister can be sent out to deal with any potential casualty.  Even if the animal has run off, it may still be seriously hurt or have internal injuries, and any delay could cause distress to the animal.’

Residents and visitors are encouraged to prepare for their journey by checking a map of where accidents happened last year – with high risk routes among roads which many people drive on every day:

http://www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/downloads/file/467/2012_animal_accidents_map

If you witness an accident:

If you witness or are involved in an accident involving a pony, donkey, cow, pig or sheep, call the Police (999 for an emergency or 101 if it’s not an emergency). Animal emergency hotline cards also give you the numbers to call if you see sick, injured or distressed animals. Cards are available from garages and Local Information Points across the New Forest. To stock the cards contact the New Forest National Park Authority at enquiries@newforestnpa.gov.uk.

Driving tips:

  • Be ready to stop - ponies may step out even when they’ve seen you approaching
  • Drive slowly, especially at night and when other cars are approaching with their headlights on
  • Give animals grazing by the side of the road a wide berth
  • Take extra care when there are animals on the verges on both sides of the road – they may cross to join their friends.
  • Remember that deer easily jump the fences alongside roads like the A337, A31 and A35 and when there is one deer more will usually follow
  • The faster you are going, the greater the damage will be to the animal, your car and your passengers - start your journey early so you don’t have to hurry.

Who is doing what?

National Park Authority

  • Animal Emergency Hotline cards and car window stickers
  • Articles in Park Life newsletter and local media coverage
  • Developing signs with changing messages with the Highway Authority

Verderers and Agisters

  • Temporary ‘animal accident here’ signs at the scene of accidents
  • Reflective collars for ponies and donkeys provided free to commoners
  • Hit and Run Reward Scheme (up to £1000 for information leading to a conviction)

Hampshire County Council

  • Speed limit signs
  • Trial Open Forest pinch points on Burley Road, Brockenhurst
  • Changing signage on high risk routes

Police

  • Speed enforcement operations targeted at speed hot spots

New Forest District Council

  • Electronic Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs), Speed Limit Reminder signs (SLRs) and Speed Data Recorders (SDRs).

Forestry Commission

  • Open forest roadside scrub cut back by 10-15m on 4-year rotation
  • Post and rail fencing at blind spots

Commoners Defence Association

  • Encouragement to commoners to use the reflective collars


-ends-

Notes to picture editors:

An accident at Howen Bottom on the B3078 between Brook and Godshill on the evening of Sunday 22 September. The occupants of the 4x4, which hit a killed a pony, were lucky not to have been injured themselves. They were saved by the vehicle air bags and the size of the large VW Tuareg in which they were travelling.  The force of the collision caused enormous damage that could have had tragic consequences for the driver and passengers of a smaller vehicle.

Notes to Editor:

About the New Forest National Park Authority

Protect - Enjoy - Prosper

The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:

  • Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
  • Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.

We also have a duty to:

  • Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.

The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.

Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.

Media Contacts:
Matt Stroud, Communications Assistant, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
Email: matt.stroud@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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