MOTORISTS have been warned to take care on the roads as the New Forest approaches its “deadliest month” of the year for animal accidents.
Incidents involving livestock peak between 5pm and 8pm on weekdays in the winter months and are at their worst in November.
The national park authority has called on drivers to slow down from 40mph to 30mph – adding on average just three minutes to a regular journey.
Last year 159 New Forest ponies, cattle, donkeys, pigs and sheep were involved in collisions, with 58 killed and 32 injured.
Nigel Matthews, the NPA’s head of recreation management and learning, convenes the Forest’s Animal Accident Reduction Group. He said: “We urge drivers to be animal aware at all times and always add extra time to journeys in the Forest.
“By slowing down at night, especially when oncoming vehicles approach, drivers, their passengers and the animals will be much safer.”
He added: “It’s the grazing by animals that helps shape and maintain the New Forest we all know and enjoy.”
Most incidents involve local people making regular trips in low winter light while contending with dazzling oncoming headlights and poor visibility in bad weather.
The NPA has identified four particularly high risk roads:
- The B3078/79 from Cadnam to Godshill
- The B3054 from Lymington to Dibden Purlieu
- The B3055 from Brockenhurst to Sway
- The C10 from Picket Post to Holmsley
In recent years the Animal Accident Reduction Group has spearheaded a range of measures including police mobile speed cameras and reflective warning signs on key and dangerous routes.
The verderers’ head agister, Jonathan Garelli, stressed that motorists must report it if they hit an animal.
“A hit-and-run is the last thing we want, where an animal could be left in pain for hours or days if not reported,” he said.
“Even if it runs off, the animal could be seriously injured, so call the police and an agister will be sent out to search for the casualty.”
Bruce Rothnie, Forestry England’s Deputy Surveyor for the New Forest, also said: “If you do have an accident involving a pony, cow, donkey, pig or sheep you are required by law to report it to the police as soon as possible.
“A reward of up to £5,000 is offered for information leading to the successful conviction of drivers prosecuted for failing to stop and report an accident involving a Forest animal.”