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New Forest organisations are appealing for motorists to take more care as a new map is published to highlight the worst roads for animal accidents.
The map shows 138 accidents across the Forest in 2014, with more than a third of accidents taking place on just three roads:
• B3078 from Cadnam to Godshill – 24 accidents
• B3054 from Hatchet Pond to Portmore – 16 accidents
• B3056 from Hatchet Pond to Lyndhurst – 13 accidents
The map also shows a cluster of accidents from Picket Post to Burley Street and by Bolton’s Bench in Lyndhurst.
A number of Forest organisations work together to reduce the number of accidents including the Verderers, the Commoners Defence Association, New Forest National Park Authority, Hampshire Constabulary, the Forestry Commission, New Forest District Council and Hampshire County Council.
The overall number of accidents fell in 2014 to 138 (from 181 in 2013). But Forest organisations are warning against any complacency, especially among motorists who travel across the Forest each day as most incidents involve people who live in or close to the New Forest. This is particularly important as many foals are born at this time of year.
Initiatives include fitting reflective pony collars, changing road warning signs to keep drivers’ attention, traffic calming measures, verge cutting to increase visibility and awareness campaigns.
The Commoners Defence Association has also developed a project, with funding from the Verderers, to have 80% of the time of a police officer and an infra-red speed camera to patrol Forest roads day and night. In March alone, 495 motorists were caught driving over the speed limit on unfenced roads where animals can wander into the road.
Sue Westwood, Clerk to the Verderers, said: ‘New Forest ponies and cattle are free to roam the New Forest and it’s their grazing activity which shapes the iconic landscape. We hope this map will be a visual reminder to motorists to be aware of animals as they’re driving. Although accidents are spread across the Forest and their distribution changes every year, there are particular roads which always seem to have a high number of accidents.’
Nigel Matthews, Head of Recreation Management and Learning at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘Local motorists should never assume that it won’t happen to them. One day that animal beside the road will step out at the last minute, so go slowly and give it a wide berth. The speed limit is 30 or 40mph for a reason. Animals are on the road day and night, and unfortunately have no fear of cars.’
Graham Ferris, Chairman of the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, said: ‘We hope that the presence of the mobile speed camera on the unfenced roads will encourage motorists to observe the speed limit and thereby give themselves a better chance of avoiding accidents which kill and injure commoners livestock and risk the safety of drivers and passengers .’
• Be ready to stop - ponies may step out even when they’ve seen you approaching
• Slow down, especially at night and when other cars are approaching with their headlights on
• Give animals grazing by the side of the road a wide berth
• Take extra care when there are animals on the verges on both sides of the road – they may cross to join their friends.
• Consider travelling on the fenced roads (such as the A31, A337 and A35) so that you don’t have to cross the open Forest.
• The faster you are going, the greater the damage will be to the animal, your car and your passengers - start your journey early so you don’t have to hurry.
If you witness or are involved in an accident involving a pony, donkey, cow, pig or sheep, call the Police (999 for an emergency or 101 if it’s not an emergency). Animal emergency hotline cards also give you the numbers to call if you see sick, injured or distressed animals. Cards are available from garages and Local Information Points across the New Forest. To stock the cards contact the New Forest National Park Authority at email@example.com.