A SPATE of deer accidents on the roads has prompted a national warning for drivers to take care in areas like the New Forest with a high population of the animals.
The alert comes as five were found dead in one day at a single spot on the A35 in nearby Dorset. The New Forest has thousands of deer roaming through it among an estimated 1.5-milion across Britain.
Highways England, the government company responsible for motorways and major A-roads, said studies suggested there could be some 400 people injured annually in deer-related collisions, and potentially around 20 people killed.
At this time of year, deer accidents peak as they cross roads seeking new territories. The highest risk is between sunset and midnight, and the hours either side of sunrise.
Leonardo Gubert, senior ecologist at Highways England, said: “Sadly, the outcome of a collision involving a deer can be much more catastrophic than vehicle damage or injury to the animal.
“You may be well-travelled and on a well-known route without a previous sighting, but there may be deer hidden in nearby foliage or woodlands and some species of deer can gather often in large groups.
“You may have seen one and avoided it but others may follow and unexpectedly dart out into the roadway.”
The advice to drivers is to check their speed near deer warning signs, dip lights if they see a deer to avoid them freezing on the spot, and use hazard lights if forced to stop.
The warning is backed by the Deer Initiative, a national partnership of public and private groups working to manage the animals’ population in England and Wales.
Director David Jam said: “The recent spate of accidents is a stark reminder about the dangers of deer on our roads.
“We urge drivers to check their speed and stay alert especially when they see deer warning signs or are travelling through a heavily wooded or forested stretch of road.”
To find out more go to www.deeraware.com.