Forest free of animal accidents for four weeks

Animal accident yellow triangle 2308

Published Friday 10 June 2016

There were no road accidents involving animals in the New Forest for a four week period spanning May and June, one of the longest incident-free periods on record.

The lack of recent accidents is a welcome relief for the Agisters, who tend to injured animals on behalf of the Verderers of the New Forest. Before this recent lull, they had dealt with 42 incidents and 14 animals killed on Forest roads this year.

The free-roaming ponies, cattle and donkeys in the New Forest are owned by people called commoners, who have ancient rights to graze their animals on the Open Forest.

Although this quiet period is very welcome for commoners, they and local organisations recognise that even one animal death is too many.

This is why the New Forest National Park Authority and the Commoners’ Defence Association continue to assist the Verderers in raising awareness of the risks of animal accidents on the Forest's unfenced roads. This includes the importance of drivers passing animals wide and slow, as they may step out in front of a vehicle without warning.

Current initiatives to reduce accidents include new signage installed by Hampshire County Council on roads in the north of the Forest and a mobile police safety van that caught around 10,000 speeding drivers in 2015.

Last month’s lull follows positive news in 2015, which saw the smallest recorded number of commoners’ animals killed in a year on New Forest roads: 55. Despite these lower numbers, the risk still remains – illustrated by two incidents in the last week that have brought an end to the accident-free period.   

Nigel Matthews, New Forest National Park Authority’s Head of Recreation Management and Learning, convenes the New Forest Animal Accident Reduction Group of organisations working to protect the animals. He said: 'The general trend towards fewer accidents in recent years suggests more people are driving more carefully, but we recognise that even one animal accident is a tragedy.

‘So we would like all local drivers to declare their intention to 'go slow for ponies' and raise awareness of the issue by displaying a window sticker in their car. These are available from Lymington Town Hall and at visitor information points across the New Forest.’

For more details about where the high risk routes for animal accidents are and what initiatives Forest organisations have in place to reduce collisions, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animalaccidents.

What can you do?

Drivers can avoid collisions involving animals on roads in the New Forest by:

  • Taking note of warning signs.
  • Keeping your speed down (it’s 40mph for a reason in areas like the New Forest) and being prepared to reduce your speed according to the visibility.
  • Being especially aware at night
  • Using headlights on high beam if there is no oncoming traffic and dipping them quickly (and slowing down) when oncoming traffic appears.

If you see a commoner’s animal which looks ill, is injured, or in distress you should report it as soon as possible, giving: a clear description of the animal, what you think may be wrong with it, where you saw it and at what time.
Call the Verderers' Office (working hours) on 02380 282052. If you are unable to obtain a reply, please try the Forestry Commission on 0300 067 4600 (24 hours a day).

You are legally obliged to report road traffic accidents to the Police on either 999 (immediately for an emergency) or 101 (within 24-hours if a non-emergency). Ask the call taker to contact an Agister.

-ends-

Notes to Photo Editor:

Animals on the road in the New Forest, credit: Natasha Weyers.

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 Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
Email: matt.stroud@newforestnpa.gov.uk

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