High-risk time for deer and traffic collisions

MAY IS a high-risk month when it comes to collisions between deer and motor vehicles, warn Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

They say motorists should always be alert to the risk when travelling on country roads, particularly when there are woods or fields on both sides.

Accidents involving deer peak at this time of year, as yearling animals disperse, looking for their own territories.

The most recent deer-vehicle collisions research shows there are more than 7,000 collisions between motor vehicles and deer every year in Scotland, with a number of these resulting in human injuries.

The combined economic value of these accidents, through human injuries and significant damage to vehicles is £7 million.

And across the UK, it’s estimated there are between 42,000 and 74,000 deer-vehicle related accidents a year, resulting in 400 to 700 human injuries and about 15 deaths, with an annual cost approaching £47 million.

The Deer Vehicle Collisions Project reports that the road sections with highest recent accident rates at this time of year include the A9 (Dunblane to Perth; Bankfoot to Pitlochry); A85 (Methven to Perth); and A90 (Dundee to Brechin; Stonehaven to Aberdeen).

Dr Jochen Langbein of the Deer Initiative said: “The fact that only around one-fifth of all UK deer-vehicle collisions occur in Scotland doesn’t mean the risk to drivers here is lower. On the contrary, the risk of deer collisions per driven mile is greater in Scotland, as total traffic volumes in England are nine times higher than in Scotland.”

Sinclair Coghill, SNH wildlife management officer, said: “We should all be aware of the risk of deer on the road when we’re driving. We’d ask motorists to slow down and watch for deer crossing in front of traffic.

“Be particularly alert if you’re driving near woods where deer can suddenly appear before you have time to brake. If you hit a deer, report it to the police, as the deer may be fatally injured and suffering.”

Other tips

• Try not to suddenly swerve to avoid hitting a deer. A collision into oncoming traffic could be even worse.

• Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic. Try to come to a stop as far away from the animals as possible to allow them to leave the roadside without panic, and use your hazard warning lights.

• After dark, use full-beams when there is no oncoming traffic, as this will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and give you more time to react. But dim your headlights when you see a deer or other animal on the road so you don’t startle and confuse it.

The writer of this article has already this year been involved in a deer/vehicle collision and says: “Whilst the old wisdom that one deer crossing is usually followed by a second remains good advice, bear in mind that the second can be followed by a third.

“My incident took place just before dawn near Friockheim and the deer were very close to my vehicle, but I just had time to feel relieved that two had passed, before the third appeared with, I fear, disastrous consequences for itself.”