Deer road deaths prompt Highways England driver warning

Deer and a car Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are six types of wild deer in the UK

Drivers are being warned to watch out for deer after a spate of crashes involving the animals in recent weeks.

Highways England said collisions tend to peak at this time of year as deer search for new territories.

The riskiest times are around dusk when deer go out to feed and dawn when they return, the British Deer Society said.

It is estimated there are up to 74,000 deer-related traffic accidents each year in Britain, although exact figures are unavailable.

Highways England said it believed 400 motorists were injured in deer-related accidents every year.

Senior ecologist Leonardo Gubert said: "Sadly, the outcome of a collision involving a deer can be much more catastrophic than vehicle damage or injury to the animal."

The warning comes after five deer were found dead in one day along a stretch of the A35 in Dorset.

David Jam, director of The Deer Initiative, 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."

Advice for drivers also includes:

  • Stay alert to deer in areas with signs and on roads through woods and forests
  • Dip headlights when seeing a deer as the animal may freeze on the spot instead of leaving the road
  • Look for other deer, as they often gather and travel in herds
  • Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic
  • Try not to suddenly swerve to avoid hitting a deer

Charles Smith-Jones, from the British Deer Society, said there was no legal requirement to report hitting a deer and no central collation of deer-related crashes which is why there can only be estimates.

A survey in 1997 based on old data estimated the number of deer hit by traffic in the UK was up to 40,000, while a 2003 study said it could be nearer 74,000.

More than 65% of these collisions are in the South East and East of England, according to the study.

Drivers are urged to report any incidents to help compile a full picture of which roads are most at risk. Anyone hitting a deer can also contact police for help.

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