Three important factors have prompted the British Deer Society and the AA to warn UK drivers of the hidden dangers they may encounter when driving on our roads, especially at night. Firstly, recent lockdown measures have resulted in a lower number of cars on the roads which, according to Government statistics, are at 85% of pre-lockdown levels. Secondly, the clocks have also recently changed from BST to GMT, meaning that the twilight rush-hour traffic peaks an hour earlier than before (from an animal’s point of view anyway). Finally, it’s the time of year that seasonal migrations occur within the deer population so they’re more likely to be crossing roads during rutting season
According to the AA, 13,800 drivers who took part in a poll said that they’ve seen a 16% increase in deer or other wildlife on roads during or since lockdown. More worryingly, this increases to 42% of 18 to 24-year-olds, who are more likely to make evening trips than older motorists.
It should come as no surprise that wildlife in general, has been lulled into a false sense of security brought about by quieter roads and country lanes. When it’s busy, they’ll avoid roads as much as possible as the constant noise and bright lights will scare them. Of course, when the roads get quieter, they’re far more likely to venture out of the undergrowth to cross them.
The British Deer Society’s CEO sums it up well by saying:
“Road traffic accidents involving deer are sadly an all too frequent occurrence in the UK as well as in many other countries, especially in Autumn and Early winter, during the breeding season. We would urge drivers to be extra careful especially on roads where there are wildlife warning signs, and also driving through rural areas.”
“The quieter roads due to Covid-19 restrictions have also made this year’s statistics more concerning and we would especially urge all drivers to be more deer aware as the evidence shows an increase in collisions during the first Covid-19 lockdown.”
Precautions you can take – Being “deer-aware”
With 1.5 million deer living in the wild in Britain, it makes sense to be extra-careful on the road, particularly as more deer are on the move during the rutting season. Because of this, you should:
- Reduce your speed and look out for any deer that may be lurking by the side of the road, especially at dusk or dawn.
- If you do happen to see one ahead of you, slow down as it’s likely that others will be following it.
- If there’s no traffic heading towards you, make use of your full-beam to make it easier to spot wild deer. If you see any, take off your full-beam straight away to avoid startling them.
- Don’t be tempted to swerve sharply as it could result in a serious accident, and don’t break too heavily if you have cars following you.
- If you do hit a deer, call the police immediately as they’ll be better able to deal with the situation.
We hope you’ve found the above pointers helpful and please bear in mind if you’re a younger driver with little experience of driving at night, please be especially careful on the roads; not just for yourself and the deer, but for all the other wild animals you’re likely to encounter at one time or another.