Nearly 10,000 motorists were caught speeding in the New Forest when a police camera van was used in a bid to stop animals being killed on the roads.
Last year was a record low for animal accidents in the New Forest with 55 Forest animals killed and 21 injured on the roads.
But campaigners say just one animal hurt is too many. Thanks to further funding by the Verderers, the mobile speed camera will continue policing New Forest roads for at least another year as part of a number of measures to reduce accidents.
In 2015, 9,765 motorists were caught exceeding speed limits in and around the Forest. Despite the risks, half those caught were on unfenced roads with free-roaming animals owned by commoners.
Including where animals were thought not to be seriously hurt, the number of reported accidents decreased from 140 in 2014 to 127 in 2015. The number of animals killed and injured fell from 91 to 76. Pigs, cattle, donkeys and sheep were involved in accidents as well as ponies.
Head Agister Jonathan Gerrelli, who is also a Commoner owning animals out on the Forest, said they can’t say how large a part the speed camera van played in the reduction of accidents but data collected over the past year will be analysed to provide more detailed information.
He said: “Animals do not have any road sense. When drivers see an animal on the road or on the verge they need to slow right down and give the animal plenty of space. Drivers should be especially careful at night.”
The New Forest Commoners’ Defence Association (CDA) developed the mobile speed camera project in partnership with the New Forest Verderers, and Hampshire Constabulary, using night time infra-red technology which enables enforcement to take place day and night. The Speed Camera Initiative is funded by the New Forest Verderers in partnership with Hampshire Constabulary.
CDA Chairman Graham Ferris said: “The number of drivers caught driving at well over the speed limit on Forest roads is totally unacceptable. Motorists are putting the animals, themselves and their passengers in danger and risk seriously damaging their vehicles. Many are now facing fines and points on their licence.
“The animals are owned by commoners and it’s extremely distressing to see your pony dead on the roadside or having to be dispatched by an Agister because it’s too seriously injured to survive.”
Nigel Matthews, the New Forest National Park Authority’s Head of Recreation Management and Learning, convenes the New Forest Animal Accident Reduction Group of organisations working to protect the animals. He said most speeding drivers are locals who become complacent about the animals as they go about their daily travels.
He said: “The New Forest is a world capital for wildlife with its habitats protected under international designations. This exceptional area for nature conservation is created by the grazing of animals which are allowed to roam free across the landscape.
“So we’re appealing to drivers to slow down, help save animals from being killed or injured, and to help protect the New Forest National Park.”
For more details about where the high risk routes for animal accidents are and what initiatives Forest organisations have in place to reduce collisions, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animalaccidents.
What can you do?
Drivers can avoid collisions involving animals on roads in the New Forest by:
- Taking note of warning signs.
- Keeping your speed down (it’s 40mph for a reason in areas like the New Forest) and being prepared to reduce your speed according to the visibility.
- Being especially aware at night Using headlights on high beam if there is no oncoming traffic and dipping them quickly (and slowing down) when oncoming traffic appears.
If you see a commoner’s animal which looks ill, is injured, or in distress you should report it as soon as possible, giving: a clear description of the animal, what you think may be wrong with it, where you saw it and at what time.
Call the Verderers’ Office (working hours) on 02380 282052. If you are unable to obtain a reply, please try the Forestry Commission on 0300 067 4600 (24 hours a day).
You are legally obliged to report road traffic accidents to the Police on either 999 (immediately for an emergency) or 101 (within 24-hours if a non-emergency). Ask the call taker to contact an Agister.