Rise in car collisions with deer prompts road safety warning

Red Deer stags at sunrise Picture: PAMELA BIDWELL

Red Deer stags at sunrise Picture: PAMELA BIDWELL - Credit: Pamela Bidwell

Drivers are being warned to remain alert as the number of vehicles involved in collisions with deer continues to rise.

Red deer at Dunwich Heath Picture: ROBERT MCKENNA

Red deer at Dunwich Heath Picture: ROBERT MCKENNA - Credit: Archant

It is estimated that between 42,000 and 74,000 deer-related motor vehicle accidents happen in the UK every year, resulting in hundreds of human injuries and between 10-20 fatalities.

Both Suffolk and Essex have a high number of deer/vehicle collisions each year, with the A134 in Thetford Forest being a particular accident hotspot.

The UK is home to two million deer and during October and December, the animals are on the move for mating season or “the rut”.

National deer-related accident figures have been on the rise in the past 10 years and it is expected to continue to increase.

Marmalade – which provides cars and insurance for learner and younger drivers – is warning motorists to remain vigilant during the rutting season.

Young driver Brandon Radford was driving back to his home in Bishop’s Stortford on the A120 when he hit a deer.

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“I was driving back after a date in Cambridge, it must have been around 11pm at night,” he said. “The drive wasn’t too bad apart from it being fairly foggy.

“As we went off the A120 and onto the slip road, the lights revealed a fully-grown deer running towards the car. It must have been five meters away maximum, which didn’t give me much time to react.

“I tried to swerve away but that led to almost going into another car. Within a few seconds I had hit the deer and it went under the car, causing it to turn over and slide off the road and into a ditch. Luckily someone had seen what had happened and called an ambulance.

“My date went to the hospital as she had bumped her head on the window and I ended up with some serious damage to my collar bone. Shortly after I had to say goodbye to my faithful car that was written off after the crash.”

Crispin Moger, chief executive at Marmalade, said: “For many young drivers this season could be their first experience driving in long periods of low light or darkness and testing weather conditions.

“Deer movement coincides with key commuting hours, meaning they can suddenly appear on the road when heavily populated with cars.

“Remaining vigilant and being aware of what to do in case you encounter a deer is a skill which is not taught or discussed during driving lessons. “However, it’s important that all young drivers are aware of this issue, so they can fulfil their journeys safely and without incident.”

Richard Leonard, head of road safety at Highways England, said: “The one time you might experience a close encounter with a deer is when you are behind the wheel, especially during the rutting season when their increased activity could bring them out onto the roads. “Slowing down will give you more time to brake if an animal darts out into the road without warning.”

Marmalade’s top tips for deer safety are as follows:

• When travelling through woodland or forested stretches of road, remain extra alert. Many are marked with deer warning signs, so check speed and drive with caution.

• Dip full beamed headlights if in the vicinity of a deer as it may become startled and freeze.

• If a deer is ahead, be prepared to switch on hazard lights and stop. Swerving into oncoming traffic is likely to cause a larger accident.

• Deer often travel in groups. If you see a deer, there may be more that follow, so continue with caution and keep this in mind.

• Once a deer has been injured it can be aggressive and dangerous. Instead of approaching, call the police who can direct your call to the relevant team.

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