Stark warning over deer on roads

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Published on 20 May 2019 by Mike Waters

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Filed under Category: The world of motorcycling

Highways England and the Deer Initiative have issued a joint warning to all road users about the hazards posed by deer.

This point of the year sees deer instinctively migrating to new territories and often crossing roads to find them. The result is a sharp increase in collisions, particularly in the hours either side of sunrise and between sunset and midnight, and these can be extremely dangerous for motorcyclists.

Studies cited by Highways England found that up to 1,000 people are injured and approximately 20 are killed every year due to collisions with deer. Conversely, at least 40,000 deer are killed each year in collisions of various kinds and some studies suggest that figure could be as high as 74,000.

Highways England’s Senior Ecologist, Leonardo Gubert, said: “You may be well-travelled and on a well-known route without a previous sighting, but there may be deer hidden in nearby foliage or woodlands and some species of deer can gather often in large groups; you may have seen one and avoided it but others may follow and unexpectedly dart out into the roadway.”

Although measures can be taken to help prevent collisions, including setting up deer-proof fencing by roadsides, constructing larger culverts to prevent crossings and adding signs to provide extra warning, Highways England need to know where the greatest concentrations of deer are so they can be sited effectively. To help with this, road users are invited to report collisions and sightings via the Deer Aware website.

In the meantime, Highways England has issued the following advice:

1. When you see deer warning signs or are travelling through a heavily wooded or forested stretch of road, check your speed and stay alert.

2. If your headlights are on, use full-beams when you can, but dip them if you see deer as they may ‘freeze’ on the spot instead of leaving the road.

3. If you see a deer, look for another. They often gather in herds and follow each other as they move through the landscape.

4. Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic – use your hazard lights. Try to come to a stop as far away from an animal as possible to enable it to leave the roadside without panic. Try not to suddenly swerve to avoid a deer. Hitting oncoming traffic or another obstacle could lead to a more serious collision.

5. If you must stop, use your hazard warning lights.

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