As the clocks turn back this weekend, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is warning motorists that collisions between deer and vehicles peak at this time of year.
With night falling earlier, the peak commuting time coincides with deer coming out to feed on grass verges near roadsides.
Because of this, SNH, working with Transport Scotland and Traffic Scotland, is placing warning messages on electronic variable messaging signs.
From this Sunday evening to Monday, November 21, the signs will warn motorists at key locations on the main trunk roads across West and Northwest Scotland. These messages will be seen on signs on the A9, A87, A82, A85 and the A835.
The most recent deer-vehicle collisions research shows there are more than 7000 collisions between motor vehicles and deer every year in Scotland, with an average of 65 of these resulting in human injuries.
The combined economic value of these accidents, through human injuries and significant damage to vehicles is £7 million. Across the UK, it’s estimated there are between 42,000 and 74,000 deer-vehicle related accidents a year, resulting in over 450 human injuries and several fatalities every year, with an annual cost approaching £47m.
Jamie Hammond, SNH deer management officer, said: “From October to December, there’s a higher risk of deer on the road as deer move down to lower ground for forage and shelter. The highest risk is from sunset to midnight and shortly before and after sunrise.
“We advise motorists to slow down and watch for deer crossing roads. Be particularly alert if you’re driving near woods where deer can suddenly appear before you have time to brake. If you do hit a deer, report it to the police, as the deer may be fatally injured and suffering.”
Dr Jochen Langbein, who oversees the Deer Vehicle Collisions Project, added: “Many people think most accidents with deer and vehicles occur on more remote Highland roads, but in Scotland up to 70 percent occur on A-class trunk roads or motorways. As well, when traffic volume is taken into consideration, the risk of a collision with a deer is about twice as high per vehicle-mile driven in Scotland compared to England.”
Richard Cooke of the Association of Deer Management Groups added: “Deer are a danger on our roads at any time of year, more or less anywhere in Scotland, but it is particularly important to look out for them in the spring and autumn. To reduce incidents, drive within the speed limit to give you a chance of stopping.”
Other tips include:
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 or oncoming 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.
Be aware that more deer may cross after the one or two you first see, as deer often travel in groups;
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 it;
Report any deer-vehicle collisions to the police, who will contact the local person who can best help with an injured deer at the roadside. Do not approach an injured deer yourself it may be dangerous.