Press release via RAC-Foundation
October 7 2004
Collisions Cost Deer
Collisions or near misses of vehicles with deer led to the deaths of at least ten motorists and passengers and more than 250 injuries* in the UK last year.
The death and injury toll among the animals was much higher with an estimated 30,000 50,000 deer killed or wounded and at least £11 million worth of damage caused to vehicles.
But even this could be the tip of the iceberg as the true scale and spread of the problem is still largely unknown.
Now, the RAC Foundation is supporting a national project which aims to cut human and animal casualties and is appealing to motorists to report any deer collision they witness or are involved in - and to be aware of potential dangers.
The National Deer Collisions Project** was launched last year to assess the real picture. It aims to investigate the key factors that affect deer accident risks, undertake research into the effectiveness of various roadside defensive measures used to reduce animal road kill and identify black spots where future preventative efforts should be targeted - as well as increasing public awareness.
For the past year it has collated, via its web site, information from all over the country on collisions involving deer, gradually building a database of where and when these accidents are happening.
During the first twelve months, details of 12,000 different incidents were submitted (of which over 5000 occurred in 2003) and already this year 3000 collisions have been reported.
Accidents peak, however, between October and December so it is even more important that people report their experiences in this period. As it gets darker, rush-hour traffic increasingly overlaps with the busiest times of deer activity - around dawn and dusk - and contributes to the rise in accidents. For the large species like red and fallow deer, October is also the peek of mating season when bucks and stags tend to run blindly across the road with other things on their mind.
The greatest concentration of collisions reported so far comes from around Greater London and the Home Counties in England where heavy traffic flows co-incide with large numbers of deer and a high percentage of woodland cover, followed by areas of the South, East Anglia and Cumbria. In Scotland, numbers peak in the Highlands and Northeast.
Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said:
"These are worrying figures - concerning both in terms of road safety and animal welfare. Hitting a deer presents a greater risk to motorists in comparison to other road kill incidents because of the large size of the animal.
Many additional accidents are caused by the tendency of drivers to over-react and swerve excessively rather than hit the deer."
The Foundation is urging drivers involved in, or witnessing, collisions with deer or those who just spot deer carcasses at the roadside to report them on the projects website www.deercollisions.co.uk. Records do not have to be perfect in every detail, as long as the details of date, road number and approximate location can be given.
David Hooton, Eastern Region Deer Liaison Officer for The Deer Initiative said:
"Although deer-related incidents are recorded by a variety of organisations, this information remains extremely patchy and inconsistent at present. We are calling on the general public, as well as insurance companies and motoring organisations, to help us."
The project is overseen for The Deer Initiative by Dr Jochen Langbein and (in Scotland) Professor Rory Putman, both deer researchers with a long-standing interest in this problem.
Dr Langbein said:
"Increasing numbers of road accidents with deer are a major concern for both public safety and deer welfare throughout Europe and North America. A high proportion of deer which are hit by cars are not killed outright, but instead many have to be put down at the roadside while others escape to die later of their injuries.
"We need better information on the circumstances and locations of deer accidents throughout the country. Together with research into aspects of deer behaviour near roads, this will form the basis for improving the design and deployment of measures aimed at reducing traffic collisions."
In Suffolk, the researchers are currently working with the County Council road safety team to trial new ways of helping to reduce the number of accidents on a stretch of road through Thetford Forest.
One trial involves placing rumble strips across the road, and erecting extra warning signs at either end of the section. It is hoped that this will make drivers more aware of the risk and cut their speed, while the vibration and extra noise created by tyres going over the rumble strips may deter deer temporarily from crossing at times when traffic is approaching the danger area. The effectiveness of this measure will be monitored using video surveillance.
The RAC Foundation and the Deer Collisions Project have compiled the following safety tips to avoid accidents:
- Take note of deer warning signs, by driving with extreme caution at or below the posted speed limit. Such signs really are positioned only where deer crossing are likely.
- Peaks in deer related traffic collisions occur October through December, followed by May. Highest-risk periods are from sunset to midnight followed by the hours shortly before and after sunrise.
- Be aware that further deer may well cross after the ones you have noticed.
- After dark, 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 a deer or other animal is noted on the road, dim your headlights as animals startled by the beam may freeze rather than leaving the road.
- Don't over-swerve - a slight swerve might be safe but overreacting with traffic coming in the other direction or a ditch to the left could be fatal.
- Only break 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 animals as possible to enable it to leave the roadside without panic.
- Report any deer-vehicle collisions to the police (who should be able to contact the local person best placed to assist with an injured deer at the roadside)
- Slow down for wildlife.
* National Deer Collisions Project an update (2004)
** The National Deer Collisions Project is administered by the Deer Initiative on behalf of the Highways Agency and Scottish Executive. The study is overseen by Deer Management Consultants Dr Jochen Langbein and (in Scotland) by Prof.Rory Putman, together with David Hooton (DI Deer Liaison Officer for East of England) with support from The Highways Agency, The Scottish Executive, National Forest Company, Woodland Trust, and The Deer Study & Resource Centre, as well as the help and support of by all other partner organisations making up The Deer Initiative in England and Wales and The Deer Commission for Scotland.
The RAC Foundation for Motoring is an independent body established to protect and promote the interests of UK motorists. Motoring organisation RAC supports its seven million customers with breakdown cover and a wide range of other motoring solutions. The views of each organisation should not be attributed to the other.
Dr. Jochen Langbein 01984 641366 or email
David Hooton 01842 890798 or email
In Scotland, Prof. Rory Putman email
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