DRIVERS are being reminded to be extra careful on the roads as November is “the deadliest month for livestock” in the New Forest.

According to figures most accidents involving animals in the Forest peak between 5pm and 8pm on weekdays in the winter months. Motorists are also being encouraged to slow down from 40mph to 30mph, a move which adds only three extra minutes to most journeys across the Forest and can reduce accidents involving animals.

Last year, 159 New Forest animals – ponies, cattle, donkeys, pigs and sheep who are free to roam – were involved in collisions, with 58 killed and 32 injured.

Nigel Matthews, the head of recreation management and learning at the New Forest National Park Authority who convenes the Forest’s Animal Accident Reduction Group, 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.’

The high-risk routes include B3078/79 from Cadnam to Godshill and the C10 from Picket Post to Holmsley.

The number of commoners’ animals killed and injured has almost halved in the last 20 years.

Charlotte Lines, the chair of the Commoners Defence Association, said: “Great work has been done by several Forest groups working together to reduce the number of road traffic accidents involving commoners’ livestock. Reflective collars for ponies and ear tags for cattle are just two of the initiatives commoners are implementing to reduce the risk, however there are still too many casualties. Animals can just appear from nowhere and in an instant, so we ask users of Forest roads to drive with care and caution over the winter months and help us protect our animals. #Add3Minutes #PassSlowAndWide #BeForestFriendly.’

Ann Sevier, who is a member of the New Forest National Park Authority, spoke about the impact on commoners and said: “It is a loss. The animals have right of way which not everyone realises because it is a piece of common land. It is not always obvious to people that they must give way.

“If an animal is injured you have the vets bill and you are not always sure the animal will survive, and in many cases they have to be destroyed. I’ve had an animal with a broken back before and one with the front legs smashed to smithereens - it is not good.

“Not only is it awful for the animals to slowly have to die but it makes commoners very angry. They realise accidents happen. We get angry because people will leave them in the road to die.”

She said: “It is the worst time of the year because when the clocks go back people are caught out with it suddenly being dark in the evenings. We always have a spike as people get used to travelling home from work in the dark. We always ask everybody to add three minutes, take your time and make sure you get home and the animals are fine.”

Drivers who have an accident involving a pony, cow, donkey, pig or sheep 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.

Head Agister, Jonathan Gerrelli said: “If the worst happens, and you do collide with a forest animal, or witness an accident involving one, please report it as soon as possible.

“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.

“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.”

The New Forest’s Animal Accident Reduction Group has spearheaded a range of measures including police mobile speed cameras on the most dangerous routes and reflective warning signs.