MOTORISTS are being urged to slow down on New Forest roads after the number of accidents involving animals increased last year.

Despite initiatives to raise awareness of the dangers, 104 animals were killed on Forest roads in 2013 compared to 82 in 2012 – the highest number of casualties since 2009.

Clerk to the Verderers Sue Westwood said commoners turned out 9,000 animals on the Forest and common in 2013 and that number has been increasing year on year.

“We have a lot of animals on the forest,” she said.

“We have an increasing amount of animals and an increasing number of vehicles in the forest.

“While we are not doing too badly, we are not doing anything better either. We still need to reduce the amount of animals being killed on our roads.

“A number of initiatives to combat animal accidents are in place including reflective pony collars, road signs, traffic calming measures and enforcement of the 40mph speed limit.

“We are disappointed that accident numbers have increased again. Further strategies are in the pipeline which we hope will help to raise awareness among motorists who drive through the New Forest.”

Nigel Matthews, head of recreation management and learning at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “None of the organisations working to reduce the frequency of accidents has a magic wand.

“Three out of four accidents are known to have involved motorists who live within a few miles of the forest, including people who regularly drive along the forest’s roads.

“Once a cattle grid has been crossed, drivers should expect animals to be on the road or to step out at the last moment, day and night – and therefore proceed with care.”

Concerns had been raised about whether payments through the Single Payment Scheme (SPS), which forms part of the Common Agricultural Policy and is the EU’s main agricultural subsidy scheme, would mean commoners could claim for an ever-increasing amount of stock in the forest , increasing the likelihood of accidents.

If you are a farmer in England and meet the SPS rules, you can apply for SPS payments, which work out at about £220 per cow or two ponies.

But Mrs Westwood said: “We were concerned that the commoners would be able claim money for an ever-increasing amount of stock.

“2005 was a reference year – the number of animals a commoner kept on the forest in that year was the amount of SPS that could be claimed thereafter. However, commoners can put more animals on the forest but will not be able to claim SPS for the additional animals.”

She added that as a percentage of the stock, the numbers of animals killed in 2013 was 0.78 per cent compared to 0.73 per cent in 2012.

Driving tips: 

  • Be ready to stop - ponies may step out even when they’ve seen you approaching
  • Slow down, especially at night and when other cars are approaching with their headlights on
  • Give animals grazing by the side of the road a wide berth
  • Take extra care when there are animals on the verges on both sides of the road – they may cross to join their friends.
  • Remember that deer easily jump the fences alongside roads like the A337, A31 and A35 and when there is one deer more will usually follow
  • The faster you are going, the greater the damage will be to the animal, your car and your passengers - start your journey early so you don’t have to hurry.