Drivers warned about deer menace

Deer can appear almost instantly into the path of your car so be alert.

Deer can appear almost instantly into the path of your car so be alert. - Credit: Archant

Half of deer-related crashes happen in the spring so the AA is warning drivers to be extra vigilant for at least the next month and a half as the deer menace hits its spring peak.

More than 11,500 vehicles are left significantly damaged by crashes involving deer each year.

From April to June, on higher-speed major roads, 52% of deer-vehicle collisions happen on motorways and 48% on trunk A roads.

In 38 English local authorities, from 1999 to 2010, there were 1,605 deer-related accidents leading to human injury, according to a study of deer-related road accidents by the Deer Initiative and Highways Agency.

Department for Transport statistics for 2009 to 2011 show that reported road accidents involving animals (not including ridden horses) in the road run at around 850 a year. The most recent figures reveal that, of the 851 incidents in 2011, 51% happen in daylight. Of the 416 that happened during darkness, 28% were on roads with street lights on and 70% on roads without.

Between 40,000 and 75,000 deer are killed in collisions on the roads a year, causing £11m of damage to vehicles.

There are two peak times a year for deer accidents – May when young deer disperse from their breeding areas and the rutting season in October/November. Growing deer populations, including a 99% increase in red deer since 1999, combined with an increase in traffic, have resulted in a higher accident rate.

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Edmund King, AA president, said: “These are worrying figures both in terms of road safety and animal welfare. Hitting a deer presents a greater risk to motorists compared to other road kill incidents because of the large size of the animal.

“Drivers should be extra vigilant where there are deer warning signs and slow down. Many additional accidents are caused by the tendency of drivers to over-react and swerve excessively.”

Deer hit and miss advice

1 Accidents involving deer peak in May, October and November.

2 Worst times of day are around sunrise and sunset to midnight.

3 Deer accident hotspots include the A134 in Thetford Forest, A22 in Ashdown Forest, B4506 in Ashridge Forest, A4136 in the Forest of Dean, and M27 between Southampton and Portsmouth.

4 Deer or wild animal signs warn of deer accidents in the area.

5 A deer can appear almost instantly – nature makes them hard to see.

6 Dip your headlights if you see a deer or it may freeze in your path.

7 If a deer appears suddenly it is safer to continue on your normal track rather than swerve or brake hard.

8 If you hit a deer, stop somewhere safe or do your best to ensure that your accident isn’t hit by other vehicles.

9 Report the accident to police who will contact someone who can help the injured deer.

10 If you miss the deer (or any animal), but hit something else, it is very hard to prove that the deer ever existed.