AS MANY as 400 motorists are injured by deer-related collisions every year.
And around 20 of those incidents are fatal, making it even more important drivers are aware of the very realistic hazard.
This time of year is the most high-risk period for crashes involving deer in the UK, as the animals cross roads to seek new territory ahead of summer.
According to Highways England, you’re most likely to be involved in an incident with a wild animal between sunset and midnight, and the hours shortly before and after sunrise.
And with more than 22million leisure journeys planned over this Spring bank holiday weekend, motorists need to keep an extra eye out for deer in the road.
The Deer Initiative and Highways England have teamed up to give advice to drivers and hopefully minimise the rate of collisions.
How to minimise your chance of being involved in a collision with a deer
The Deer Initiative and Highways England have teamed up to give advice to drivers on how to stay safe around roaming deer:
- When you see deer warning signs or are travelling through a heavily wooded or forested stretch of road, check your speed and stay alert.
- 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.
- If you see a deer, look for another. They often gather in herds and follow each other as they move through the landscape.
- 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.
- If you must stop, use your hazard warning lights.
Locations where the animals are known to be active and are likely to cross are usually marked with signs to inform drivers of the need to slow down to give more time to react.
But before slamming on the brakes, check there is no chance of being hit by vehicles behind you.
It’s also a good idea to use your full-beam headlights when driving at night if there are no other vehicles around – but remember to dim the beams if you see an animal as they can freeze in the light.
According to Highways England, around 74,000 deer are killed each year across the country from collisions with vehicles.
Leonardo Gubert, Senior Ecologist at Highways England, said: “Sadly, the outcome of a collision involving a deer can be much more catastrophic than vehicle damage or injury to the animal.
“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.
“We want everyone travelling on our roads to reach their destination safely and with as many as 1.5million wild deer living across Britain it is vital for drivers to be aware of their presence, to be extra vigilant, especially at this time of year when deer are on the move, and to follow our advice.”
What to do if you’re involved in a collision with a deer
If you hit a deer while driving, your priorities in this order are:
- Keep yourself and anyone with you as safe as you can
- Park your car in the safest place with hazard lights on – consider using it to also warn other road users
- Call an ambulance if human injuries warrant it
- Call the police
- If you need to report a deer vehicle collision or to find out more on safety advice, visit the Deer Aware website.
Rebecca Ashton, head of driver behaviour at IAM RoadSmart, said: “Late spring and early summer are the most dangerous times for deer, with the worst times of day being around sunrise and between sunset to midnight.
“Some areas of the country have a more prevalent problem than others, so be vigilant when travelling through forest areas or areas known for deer.
“Pay particular attention where you see ‘deer’ or ‘wild animal’ road signs.
“Remembering a deer can appear very quickly, and of course because of their markings they are not always easy to see.
“If tragically you do hit a deer, try to stop somewhere safe and report the accident to the police – they will contact the necessary people to help the injured deer.”
David Jam, Director of The Deer Initiative, said: “The recent spate of accidents is a stark reminder about the dangers of deer on our roads.
“We urge drivers to check their speed and stay alert especially when they see deer warning signs or are travelling through a heavily wooded or forested stretch of road.”