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Forest motorists urged to slow down as clocks go back

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Silhouettes showing the fatality numbers of animal accidents will be touring the forest
Silhouettes showing the fatality numbers of animal accidents will be touring the forest

TAKE extra care on New Forest roads to save the animals – that is the message from national park organisations as the clocks go back and the evenings get darker.

Motorists are being encouraged to slow down and add three minutes to their journey, which is the extra time it takes to drive some of the most dangerous routes in the Forest at 30mph rather than 40mph.

The winter campaign was launched at the Fighting Cocks pub at Godshill, located on the worst road for animal accidents. Five near life-sized animal silhouettes will tour prominent locations around the New Forest.

They show the number of each kind of animal killed last year and provide an eye-catching reminder that winter evenings are the most likely time for accidents.

Last year 63 animals were killed on Forest roads which included ponies, cattle, donkeys, pigs and sheep.

As reported in the A&T, the figure is up this year by nearly 14% in the same period, with 67 animals having been involved in road accidents since January.

Nigel Matthews, of the New Forest National Park Authority and who convenes the Animal Accident Reduction Group, said: “To reduce the accidents, many things are done by several organisations all year round.

“At this peak time for accidents there will be prominent road warning signs, the mobile police speed camera van is out day and night, and a social media campaign urges drivers to slow down and add three minutes to their journey.”

Records of accidents over the last five years show a big increase when the clocks change, with Thursdays and Fridays between 5pm and 6pm in November and December seeing a peak in animal deaths and injuries.

Sue Westwood, clerk to the verderers, said: “Drivers should be aware that they are very likely to encounter animals on the Forest’s roads, day and night. Animals don’t have road sense so please help avoid accidents by driving slowly and carefully.

“A collision will result in significant delay for the driver involved and may result in a badly damaged vehicle as well as causing unnecessary suffering to the unfortunate animal.

“Failing to report an accident with a commoner’s animal can lead to prosecution. The verderers offer a reward of up to £5,000 to anyone providing information which leads to the successful prosecution of a driver responsible for a hit-and-run accident.”

The five animal silhouettes are scheduled to be released into the community to help spread the word. Lord Montagu will be hosting them at the Beaulieu visitor attraction over the October half-term including the Fireworks Spectacular evening.

They will be displayed at other businesses such as ExxonMobil, Sandy Balls Holiday Village, Ramboll, Brockenhurst College, Bramshaw Golf Course and The Bell Inn, Bramshaw.

Tony Hockley, chairman of the Commoners’ Defence Association, said: “Local people let their animals graze the New Forest to protect the landscape, but the clock change is always a worrying time for them.

“We have had some great results – people have worked hard to reduce the number of accidents by 40% over the last 10 years, but one accident is too many.”

Forestry England community manager, Zoe Cox added: “All of us who travel through the Forest need to take a little extra care at this time of year as the days get shorter and the weather conditions worsen.

“Just adding three extra minutes to our journeys can help to make the Forest a safer place for all.”

All accidents involving animals should be reported to the police on 999 (emergency) or 101 (non-emergency). For more information visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animalaccidents

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