DRIVERS are being urged to take extra care on the roads during the “deadliest months” for New Forest livestock.

Forest organisations are appealing to road users to expect the unexpected and remember that animals have right of way on unfenced New Forest roads.

November and December are described as the “deadliest months” for New Forest livestock as days become shorter and clocks go back with most accidents taking place between 5pm and 10pm on weekdays and involving local commuters.

In 2019, 58 animals were killed and a further 32 were injured whereas in 2020, when traffic was reduced by Covid-19 restrictions, 50 animals were killed and a further 21 were injured.

Last year’s accident figures were the lowest on record, but this year the roads are due to be busier as more people are driving to and from work.

While speed is a major contributing factor to animal accidents, low light in winter, dazzling oncoming headlights and bad weather can make visibility extremely poor.

New Forest National Park Authority executive director Steve Avery said: “Forest organisations work all year round to reduce animal accidents with initiatives such as prominent road warnings and deploying the mobile police speed camera van. Evidence shows that most animal accidents are caused by commuters who travel along the same roads daily.

"Accidents can happen at any speed and cause untold suffering to the unfortunate animal, can result in injuries to people in the car and may result in a badly damaged vehicle. By slowing down in the dark, especially when oncoming vehicles approach, drivers, their passengers and the animals will be much safer.”

Gilly Jones, commoner and spokesperson for Animal Accident Road Awareness added: “Everyone as soon as they cross a cattle grid has to drive with livestock as their main concern. Any animal can and will walk out, they do not know where you are going, and you have no idea where they are going too.

"No one would drive carelessly past a child in the road. You have to think that all animals are your small children and give them the same respect.

"Over the years I have spoken to many of those who have been unfortunate to hit an animal. Think how it will affect you and others in your vehicle maybe for years to come.”

The high-risk routes identified include the B3078/79 from Cadnam to Godshill, B3054 from Lymington to Dibden Purlieu, B3055 from Brockenhurst to Sway, and C10 from Picket Post to Holmsley.

Measures to reduce accidents have included reflective collars and tags on the animals, mobile speed cameras and reflective signs.

Charlotte Lines, chair of the New Forest 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.”

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

Head Agister Jonathan Gerrelli, who is responsible for supervising the day-to-day welfare of the animals, 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.”

You are required by law to report these accidents to the police by calling 999 as soon as possible.


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