Take extra care on New Forest roads to save the animals – that’s the message from New Forest organisations as the clocks go back and the evenings get darker.
Drivers are being asked to drive slowly and add three minutes to their journey - the extra time it takes to drive some of the most dangerous routes in the Forest at 30mph rather than 40mph.
63 animals were killed last year on Forest roads: ponies, cattle, donkeys, pigs and sheep. Sadly, the figure this year is up nearly 14% on the same period last year, with 67 animals having been involved in road accidents since January.
Most of the drivers involved were local people on regular trips, with four main roads seeing the most accidents:
• Lymington — Beaulieu — Dibden Purlieu
• Brockenhurst — Sway
• Burley — Picket Post
• Cadnam — Godshill.
The winter campaign was launched at the Fighting Cocks pub at Godshill which is on the worst road for animal accidents. Five near-life-size animal silhouettes will be going on tour to prominent locations around the New Forest. They show the number of each kind of animal killed last year and provide an eye-catching reminder that winter evenings are the most dangerous time for accidents.
Records of accidents over the last five years show a big increase when the clocks change, with Thursdays and Fridays between 5pm - 6pm in November and December seeing a peak in animal deaths and injuries.
Nigel Matthews, of the New Forest National Park Authority, convenes the Animal Accident Reduction Group of local organisations. He said: ‘To reduce the accidents, many things are done by several organisations all year round. At this peak time for accidents there will be prominent road warning signs, the mobile police speed camera van is out day and night, and a social media campaign urges drivers to slow down and #add3minutes to their journey.’
The Forest organisations are asking the public to:
- Set off early and drive carefully and slowly (#add3minutes)
- Expect animals on and beside the road
- Pass animals slow and wide and be ready to stop, especially if there is traffic coming the other way.
Sue Westwood, Clerk to the Verderers, said: ‘Drivers should be aware that they are very likely to encounter animals on the Forest’s roads, day and night. Animals don’t have road sense so please help avoid accidents by driving slowly and carefully. A collision will result in significant delay for the driver involved and may result in a badly damaged vehicle as well as causing unnecessary suffering to the unfortunate animal.
‘Failing to report an accident with a commoner’s animal can lead to prosecution. The Verderers offer a reward of up to £5,000, payable to anyone providing information which leads to the successful prosecution of a driver responsible for a hit and run accident.’
Tony Hockley, Chairman of the Commoners’ Defence Association, whose members own the animals, said: ‘The grazing animals are vital to keeping the New Forest easily accessible and rich in nature. It’s vital that the animals remain free to roam widely, which means they’ll be using the roads and verges. Local people let their animals graze the New Forest to protect the landscape, but the clock change is always a worrying time for them. We have had some great results – people have worked hard together to reduce the number of accidents by 40% over the last 10 years, but one accident is too many.’
Zoe Cox, Community Manager, Forestry England, said: ‘All of us who travel through the Forest need to take a little extra care at this time of year as the days get shorter and the weather conditions worsen. Just adding three extra minutes to our journeys can help to make the Forest a safer place for all.’
The five animal silhouettes are scheduled to ‘be released’ into the community to help spread the word. Lord Montagu will be kindly hosting the silhouettes at the Beaulieu visitor attraction over the October half-term including the Fireworks Spectacular evening to which many local visitors are expected. The silhouettes will also be displayed at other businesses such as ExxonMobil, Sandy Balls Holiday Village, Ramboll, Brockenhurst College, Bramshaw Golf Course and The Bell Inn, Bramshaw.
The campaign is being supported by the Commoners Defence Association, Forestry England, Verderers of the New Forest, New Forest National Park Authority, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Constabulary, New Forest Trust, New Forest Association and British Deer Society.
Report all accidents involving a pony, cow, donkey, pig or sheep to the Police on 999 (emergency) or 101 (non-emergency).
For more information go to www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animalaccidents
About the New Forest National Park Authority
Protect - Enjoy - Prosper
The New Forest National Park Authority’s statutory purposes are to:
-Conserve and enhance the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage of the Park - Protect.
-Promote opportunities for understanding and enjoyment of its special qualities – Enjoy.
We also have a duty to:
Seek to foster the social and economic well-being of local communities within the Park – Prosper.
The New Forest National Park was designated in March 2005. Its unique landscape has been shaped over the centuries by grazing ponies, cattle and pigs which roam free. Majestic woodlands, rare heathland and a spectacular coastline provide fabulous opportunities for quiet recreation, enjoyment and discovery.
Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk to find out more.
Suzi Shilling, Communications Assistant
New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646602
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