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Warning to be extra vigilant for deer on road

PUBLISHED: 15:20 20 October 2017 | UPDATED: 15:20 20 October 2017

Deer are more mobile during the current breeding season so drivers should be particularly vigilant. Picture: jgolby/123RF/GEM Motoring

Deer are more mobile during the current breeding season so drivers should be particularly vigilant. Picture: jgolby/123RF/GEM Motoring

jgolby/123RF

With the breeding season set to bring more deer on to roads, motoring editor Andy Russell knows how costly hitting one can be.

If it was a cryptic crossword clue it would be ‘Sounds like wild animal encounter proves costly (4)’. The answer would be ‘dear’.

Having the misfortune to hit a deer in a vehicle is very costly, particularly for the poor animal that is only following its natural instincts.

It was brought home the other evening, travelling on the A11 near Thetford, when my car’s headlights revealed a sight of carnage across the road – huge chunks of furry flesh and blood for several metres. Nearby, on the verge, were two cars with hazard lights flashing, one with the front end stoved in.

There was a lot of it so I assumed it was a deer. It had also made a mess of the car, highlighting just how much damage a big, heavy animal can do to a car travelling at 70mph and vice versa.

Tell me about it. My wife hit a muntjac, a stocky, little deer, at at 40mph when it darted into the front offside of her car. The deer died and she had a £1,600 bill to repair the damage to her car.

Six days later, again on the A11 near Thetford, a herd of about 15 fully-grown red deer appeared from a side road and ran across the dual-carriageway, jumping the central barrier. We managed to miss them but the car behind clipped one.

Now I’m always wary travelling on that stretch of road, particularly in the dark, but we should all be alert to increased deer activity at this time of year when they are breeding. It makes them more mobile and brings many more of them on to roads, warns road safety organisation GEM Motoring Assist.

It is estimated that up to 75,000 deer are killed in collisions each year on UK roads. The human death toll from deer collisions is 10 to 20 annually, with more than 400 injuries, and industry estimates put the cost of damage to vehicles alone to be at least £17m.

Deer movements appear to peak at dawn and dusk.

GEM road safety officer Neil Worth said: “We urge drivers to be on the lookout at all times, but to be particularly observant in the early mornings and early evenings. And it’s important to expect deer not just on rural lanes, but also on suburban roads, main roads and motorways.

“If you know your route takes you through areas where there are deer, then expect to see one – or more than one – on your journey. In that way, the presence of a deer on the road ahead will be less of a surprise and you will hopefully be able to avoid a collision.

“Take note of deer warning signs, as they have been placed at locations where wild animal crossings are common. Once you have spotted a deer on the road, don’t speed up and assume the risk has passed. Chances are that there will be other deer close by, all likely to be heading the same way.

“You may have only a very short reaction time available in a situation like this. But don’t swerve too hard to avoid hitting a deer. If a collision with the animal seems inevitable, then hit it while maintaining full control of your car. The alternative of swerving into oncoming traffic or a ditch could be even worse.

“Finally, if you hit a deer, stop somewhere safe and report the collision to the police, who can organise professional veterinary assistance.”

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Andy Russell

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EDP motoring editor, journalist who loves wheels and engines but hates cleaning them.

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