WATCH out for deer on the roads! That is the message from an initiative designed to cut the number of animal deaths on roads in Dorset and the New Forest.
The Deer Initiative (DI) said that there are up to 75,000 deer-vehicle collisions each year in the UK, resulting in 400-700 human injuries and several fatalities to people.
An estimated 14,000 vehicles will incur significant damage, imposing further costs up to £50m.
April to June is considered a high-risk time as the animals are on the move looking for new territories.
The problem is worsening because of the growing number of wild deer across the country.
The Deer Initiative is a partnership of statutory, voluntary and private sector interests promoting the ‘Deer Aware message’ to drivers across the regions.
Its research for collisions from 2008-2013 has been released, listing the risk areas.
In Hampshire, the hotspots are the New Forest, especially around Lyndhurst.
Dr Jochen Langbein, who has been working with the DI for the past ten years, said: “We have an estimate of over 1.5 million deer in the UK.
“Although around 20 per cent do need to be culled each year to prevent further increase in deer populations, sadly deer-vehicle collisions account for one in every five deer killed.
“This spring alone near 20,000 deer are likely to be killed on UK roads.
The daily peak is at dawn and dusk when deer are most active.”
The DI’s top tips are: Be aware that further deer may well cross after the one you may have noticed, as deer will more often move around in groups rather than alone.
After dark, do use full beams when there is no opposing traffic. The headlight beam will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and provide greater driver reaction time. But when you see a deer or other animals on the road, dim your headlights, as animals startled by the beam may ‘freeze’ rather than leaving the road.
Don’t over-swerve to avoid a deer. If a collision with the animal seems inevitable, then hit it while maintaining full control of your car. The alternative of swerving into oncoming traffic or a ditch could be even worse.
An exception here may be motorcyclists, who are at particular risk when in direct collisions with animals.
Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic.
Try to come to a stop as far in front of the animal as possible to enable it to leave the roadside without panic.
Report any deer-vehicle collisions to the police, who will contact the local person who can best help.