New Forest Animal Collisions
I had an interview with a BBC journalist today. I’m pleased to report that they will shortly be doing a week long feature on vehicle / animal collisions in the New Forest. Any publicity given to this can only be a good thing.
I was asked what I felt about the issue and what I thought would be the best of tackling the problem.
My answer is that at the moment there is no “silver bullet”. That is no one thing that will reduce incidents. I told her that fencing isn’t the solution. It is far too expensive and would fundamentally alter the nature of the New Forest. It wouldn’t even stop accidents because deer can leap even 12 foot high fences.
She asked about lower speed limits, including a reduction to 30 miles per hour. I think that enforcement of the current speed limits is a more important issue. We have to remember that these are limits and that drivers need to appreciate that they should always drive at speeds appropriate to the risks and hazards on the road in front of them. Even 30 miles an hour is far too fast if you are passing a horse grazing on the verge a few feet away.
I do think that the Verderers (as funders) and the police (through speeding enforcement) have done a great job in the last couple of years. Record numbers of motorists have been caught speeding and have been fined or opted to attend a Driving Awareness course.
It probably appears to the public that the animal collision statistics are getting worse, but when you factor in the reality that we now have record numbers of animals in the forest, it helps put things in a context. That said, every single incident is a tragedy and should be avoided.
I personally think it would be a good idea to trial average speed cameras on some high risk roads. It would need Hampshire County Council to agree to it and find the funding.
No one organisation can solve the problem. It takes good partnership working and an ongoing commitment. I would like all commoners to fit reflective material (such as collars) to their animals, but I don’t for a moment think that is the only answer.
The temporary signs, warning motorists that the road they are travelling on is high risk and has had “X” number of collisions, seems to have an impact, more than fixed signs.
The most important aspect is how people choose to drive and that is down to the individual behind the wheel not any of the organisations working to reduce the carnage.
Longer term, I think technology will solve the issue. We have already begun to see driverless cars being trialled. Perhaps it won’t be long before cars are fitted with kit that can detect the presence of an animal and automatically slows or stops the car before the worst happens.
It’s a bit ironic that it takes the removal of people driving the car to fix the problem, but there we are!