Animal Road Casualties
This page has been created to highlight the severe problems with Commoners' Ponies, Cattle, Donkeys, Sheep and Pigs being hit and often killed by Motor Vehicles on the unfenced roads across the New Forest. Too often the motorists fail to stop and report the incidents leaving animals to suffer in terrible pain for sometimes hours before being found. Some of the stories are really heart rending. This page is intended to bring these issues to the fore in the hope that anybody reading this will think twice about the way they drive along the many unfenced roads crossing the New Forest.
This is 8 more than in 2015.
If you missed Radio Solent's week long coverage about New Forest Animal Road Casualties during the week March 27-31, you have until around the end of April to catch up at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04yclrl and the final debate on Friday is in the last hour of http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p04w5p90
When driving on unfenced forest roads, the animals have right of way at all times of the day and night and are very likely to try and exercise that right. If visibility is poor and especially at night, do not drive any faster than you can safely see ahead. If you think you can see animals ahead, SLOW RIGHT DOWN. If the car in front slows DO NOT OVERTAKE. Help ensure that 2016 is at least no worse than last year in the animal accident statistics record.
The NFED website publishes a summary of weekly accidents going back several months.
There is a reward of £1,000 for information leading to the successful conviction of drivers prosecuted for failing to stop and report an accident involving a Forest animal.
Community SpeedWatch groups in Sway and several other parishes play an important role educating drivers to keep speeds down, so please always drive safely under the speed limit and be considerate to all road users, both human and animal.
Several measures have been taken over the years to try and stop the carnage on the roads of the New Forest.
- In 1963, the Perambulation was fenced. Animal deaths dropped slightly from their 1962 peak of 313.
- 1964 saw the fencing of the main A31. Animal deaths dropped again to below 200 per year.
- In 1967 the A35 was fenced and deaths dropped to between 126 and 173 per year.
- in 1973 the southern part of the A337 was fenced with little improvement in the figures
- in 1975 the Northern part of the A337 was fenced and deaths dropped to between 100 and 150
- March 1990 saw the introduction of the 40 mph speed limit in the North of the forest. However deaths in 1991 increased again to 182!
- June 1992 the rest of the forest became 40 mph zone. Between then and the new century, deaths dropped again to between 90 and 125.
- In 2014 the Verderers started funding a dedicated mobile speed camera van.
- In 2015 the mobile camera recorded nearly 10,000 speeding vehicles - deaths dropped to 55
- In 2016 the camera van recorded such large numbers, they could not all be processed in the prescribed time - deaths rose to 63
In the first 10 years of the new millennium the numbers of deaths remained fairly constant with a maximum of 90, and a minimum of 73. The second decade has seen a slight fall again, the maximum being 72 and the minimum in 2015 of 55. The chart below illustrates how that trend sadly appears now to be flattening out.
Data for the above was obtained from the Verderers figures published annually in the document at http://www.verderers.org.uk/roadaccs.pdf
Up until October it looked as though 2016 was going to show further improvement, but there was a sharp increase in deaths with the darker evenings of October, November and December. .
What is the problem?
The causes of these accidents are many and varied, but invariably the blame must sit firmly on the shoulders of inattentive or uneducated drivers. New Forest roads are not like roads across the rest of the country. Anyone driving across the forest must keep the following facts firmly in mind:
- Animals ALWAYS have right of way on forest roads
- Animals do not recognise the same dangers that humans do. They can and often will move unpredictably into the path of traffic.
- Humans MUST NEVER exceed the speed limit. It is not just illegal, it is stupid.
- In the dark, the 40 mph speed limit is invariably too high. The maximum safe speed is rarely higher than 30mph and often much lower.
- If you do hit a commoner's animal you MUST report it by phoning 999. Even if the animal appears OK, it may have been injured internally. Never leave an animal to die in agony.
What should you do?
- If you are in a hurry, please do not drive on the unfenced forest roads. Stick to the fenced roads (M27, A31, A35, A36, A337, A338) but still beware of deer and other wild animals crossing.
- If you must drive on the unfenced roads, be extra vigilant:
- At night or any other times of reduced visibility only drive at a speed whereby you know you will be able to stop if an animal were to cross your path. Typically this will be at a maximum of 30 mph and often much slower as shown here. 40 mph is too fast [327kb].
- Slow down wherever animals are grazing close to the road
- If the car in front slows down DO NOT OVERTAKE. They may have seen a danger that you have not yet spotted.
- If you see animals on both sides of the road, assume that some will cross in front of you to join the others. Foals are often seen on the opposite side of the road from their mothers.
- If a deer runs across the road in front of you, be prepared to stop for the rest of the herd.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but is at least a start. Vigilance and consideration are the watchwords, and NEVER exceed the speed limit. Except in exceptional circumstances, do not overtake the car in front even if you think the road ahead is clear. It often is not and those behind you will inevitably also overtake, but with you in their line of vision, they have a far more restricted view of the road ahead. They in turn may try to overtake you, and hence speeds rise and accidents happen.
What if you hit an animal?
You must report the incident by phoning 999 (or for less urgent situations phone 101). The call handler will alert the appropriate people.
What if you come across an injured animal?
If the situation looks urgent, always dial 999. Phone 101 if it is non-urgent. You can also contact the Forestry Commission on their 24 hour hotline 0300 067 4600 or the Verderers Office during working hours on 023 8028 2052 (Mon-Fri 9am-5pm).
You can get a handy animal accident hotline card from The New Forest National Park Authority website.
What of the future?
Many believe the solution is to prevent the animals from getting onto the road by fencing them off. Others think that this would simply ruin the beauty of the forest.
Some believe the speed limit in the forest should be reduced further. If you agree then there is a petition you can sign.
High profile publicity campaigns may provide part of the answer. The current one by the Commoners Defence Association aims to encourage drivers to treat the forest as if it had a 30 mph limit at night.
This makes a lot of sense when you consider that the typical stopping distance from 40 mph can be further than the distance you can see with dipped headlights as shown in this article kindly provided by the Commoners Defence Association in their Shared Forest Project. The relationship between stopping distance and headlight range at 40 mph [327kb]
They also have produced this very informative leaflet giving advice on how to drive on New Forest roads. Advice for New Forest Drivers [1Mb]
Hampshire Police are endeavouring to persuade people to drive more carefully with their poster
A few roads have been highlighted as particular hotspots for animal casualties. These are the B3078 Roger Penny Way between Cadnam and Godshill, the B3056 from Lyndhurst to Beaulieu, the B3055 from Brockenhurst to Sway and the B3054 from Lymington to Dibden Purlieu via Beaulieu. However maps available on the NFNPA website also show that a number of other roads have also seen far too many accidents, such as the road from Holmesley Tea Rooms via Burley to the A31 at Picket Post, and the Wootton to Brockenhurst road via Wilverley where pinch points have been trialled around Brockenhurst Weirs. Select here to view these maps and other data.
During the first quarter of 2017, Hampshire County Council installed new animal warning signs along the B3055 between Sway and Brockenhurst - one of those high risk routes. A 'wild ponies' warning sign and a safety message has been placed at all cattle grid entry points, and further repeater messages throughout the route. New black posts have been used but to avoid increasing signage, the location of existing posts were used as far as possible. More details are in the following PDF files:
2017-02-14 SIGNING LOCATION PLAN - NEW FOREST WILD PONIES SIGNING JAN17 [1Mb]
2017-02-14 SIGNING ARRANGEMENT DETAIL PLAN - NEW FOREST PONIES SIGNING JAN17 [638kb]
2017-02-14 SIGNING INVENTORY AND SIGNING PROPOSALS JAN 17 [3Mb]
2017-02-14 SIGN FACE DETAILS S1-S4 DESIGN PLAN JAN17 [428kb]
Many are opposed to extra signage, but maybe there needs to be more warning of the dangers? The problem is that we are too reliant on the expertise of the individual drivers. Many are completely unaware of the dangers. Those who should be aware are often blasé of the risks. A small minority of drivers will deliberately disobey restrictions for reasons that I cannot comprehend.
The problem is complex but really needs a very simple solution that all drivers can understand.
Things that have been suggested are:
- Average speed cameras. These work elsewhere in the country especially on intelligent motorways and through road works.
- Fixed spot check cameras. Everyone slows for these.
- Flashing Speed Limit Reminders (SLRs). These are almost as effective as cameras and are probably less contentious.
- Prohibit overtaking. If the car in front is being driven at or below the speed limit, so will all those following.
- Remove the restriction prohibiting Community SpeedWatch from operating along 40 mph roads (see below).
Average speed cameras are probably the most effective solution, affecting the behaviour of all drivers including those who deliberately disobey. Other solutions will only temporarily slow such drivers, but would work for the larger majority who generally through inattention are exceeding the speed limit.
One thing everyone is agreed on is that the carnage must not continue.
In 2016, Hampshire Constabulary placed a restriction on Community SpeedWatch groups in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight preventing them from operating along roads with a 40 mph speed limit. This means that most of the roads across the New Forest can no longer be monitored by these dedicated volunteers. This prohibition is totally counter-intuitive in relation to the problems of animal casualties. Sway Community SpeedWatch have not, as yet, been affected, but may well wish to extend their activities to such roads in future.
Sometime over the night of 27/28 October 2016, a vehicle - possibly an HGV since no vehicle debris was found - struck a New Forest Pony along Burley Road Brockenhurst. The driver did not stop or attempt to report the accident. The pony was left in agony for hours until the following morning when a local resident came across the scene, phoned for help and stayed with the pony until the Agister arrived. Both back legs were broken and the Agister had no option but to humanely despatch her. This was obviously deeply upsetting for the owners of Brock Brocade the prize winning pony that had recently been retired to grazing on the forest, for the resident who discovered the poor animal many hours later and for the Agisters who are called out far too often to these scenes.
For further information refer to the Verderers website including this education page and this leaflet, the National Park Authority website, Hampshire County Council website and New Forest Association website amongst lots of others.