New Forest animal accidents show rise in hit and run incidents in 2023PUBLISHED ON: 31 JANUARY 2024
The Verderers of the New Forest have released the details of Road Traffic Accidents involving Commoners livestock for 2023. The overall number of accidents rose from 82 in 2022 to 92 in 2023. In total, 27 ponies died compared to 34 in 2022.
While the number of New Forest ponies that died due to accidents dropped, the number of cattle, pigs and sheep that lost their lives increased.
Figures show that in 2023, the worst road for animal accidents was the B3054 road from Dibden to Lymington. Over a 10-day period in September, four ponies died on a one-mile stretch of that road. Over the entire year, around a quarter (22) of all accidents involving animals and half (14) of the ponies killed occurred on this road.
The most disappointing figure for Commoners and the Forest organisations working to reduce these accidents is the amount of hit and runs. A total of 18 drivers failed to report an incident to the police despite it being a legal requirement to do so within 24 hours.
Head Agister, Jonathan Gerrelli said: ‘While most people do report an accident at the time, unfortunately we had a spate this autumn where several drivers failed to do so.’
The Animal Accident Reduction Group is working with multiple agencies and groups to help reduce accidents. Operation Mountie, a Hampshire Police-led operation to reduce speeding across the New Forest found that only 26% of people stopped for speeding knew who to call if they had an accident with a Forest animal.
Gilly Jones from New Forest Roads Awareness said: ‘We are working with the Commoners’ Defence Association to relaunch the Real New Forest Business Group, which works with companies in and around the New Forest to educate their staff and customers on Forest road safety and explain the correct protocol if they are unlucky enough to witness or be involved in an accident.’
The Commoners Defence Association is continuing this year to put out salt licks on the open Forest along the B3078 Roger Penny Way to try and prevent animals licking the salt on the roads.
Sue Westwood, Clerk of the Verderers of the New Forest said: ‘Speed is not always the reason for accidents, livestock can be on the roads day and night, and the animals are unpredictable.’
Charlotte Belcher, Community Manager for Forestry England, said: ‘Everyone travelling through the Forest needs to take extra care especially at this time of year when the weather and light can be unpredictable. Many motorists tell us that they know the risks but think that it won’t happen to them, the figures make it clear that accidents can happen to anyone at any time of the day or night. We can all improve safety by driving with care through this special place and making sure we pass animals wide and slow.’
PCSO Richard Williams from Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary said: ‘This is a serious issue which has huge significance for the local community. We are committed to ensuring that the New Forest remains a safe place for animals to roam freely, while reducing the number of serious collisions. We will continue to work with key partners to raise awareness of animals killed by collisions and improve safety.
‘There are a number of factors that can result in a collision with an animal, and we want motorists to be mindful of their speed when using the Forest’s roads. Remember, a speed limit is exactly that – a limit. Not a target. Driving to the road conditions, especially in reduced visibility, gives drivers the best chance to react to any animals in the vicinity of the road. It is simply not worth the risk. There are consequences for drivers, the animals, and the owners of the animals, and we are seeking to reduce harm and preserve the unique environment of the New Forest.’
Steve Avery, Executive Director of Strategy and Planning from the New Forest National Park Authority said: ‘It’s extremely disappointing to see a rise again in animal accidents after the numbers have been consistently decreasing. Each animal death is a great loss to its owner and the Forest as the livestock have a crucial role to play in sustaining its rare habitats through their grazing.
‘Accidents need to be reported to the police as soon as possible, and within 24 hours, even if the animal runs away. We urge all drivers to carry an animal accident card or keep the numbers in the phones.’
Animal accident cards and car window stickers are available at community outlets throughout the Forest as well as from the New Forest National Park Authority office at Lymington Town Hall, Avenue Road, Lymington SO41 9ZG.
More information on what to do if drivers have an accident involving an animal in the New Forest can be found here. Businesses wanting to get involved in the campaign to increase safety on New Forest Roads can contact Businessgroup@realnewforest.org to find out more.
A reward of up to £5,000 may be offered for information which results in the successful conviction of a driver who fails to report having collided with a commoners’ animal.