It's that time of year again when deer with a death wish throng Highland roads. Driving in the dark through well known blackspots for jaywalking deer such as Rannoch Moor can feel like the most dangerous part of any hill day. To mark the season Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued a warning and some basic advice for motorists.
It may come as no surprise to learn that collisions between deer and vehicles increase in certain parts of the country at this time of year. From 24 October to 14 November electronic variable messaging signs will warn motorists at key locations on the main trunk roads in Scotland, such as the A9, A835, A85, A82, and A87.
The figures are staggering (no pun intended). SNH claim there are more than 7000 deer-related motor vehicle accidents every year in Scotland, on average causing about 70 human injuries. The economic value of these accidents is said to be £5 million. Across the UK it's estimated there could be up to 74,000 deer-related motor vehicle accidents a year, resulting in 400 to 700 human injuries and about 20 deaths, with a cost of over £17m.
Recent research projects show the incidence and economic impact of deer vehicle collisions on trunk roads in the Highlands remain a problem. Particularly affected are roads in the North West such as the A835, where deer may present a higher risk as they move backwards and forwards between summer and autumn mating ranges or come down out of the hills to escape bad weather.
Jamie Hammond, SNH Deer Management Officer, said:
'As autumn nights are drawing in, I'd advise drivers to be more aware than ever of the risks of deer on our roads. It's more likely deer will be moving down from higher ground to graze in adjacent fields and this can lead them to cross roads at dawn and dusk.'
'At this time of the year, we'd caution motorists to slow down and watch for deer crossing in front of traffic. Be particularly alert if you're driving near to woodland areas 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.'
Other tips for drivers include:
- Try not to suddenly swerve to avoid hitting a deer (easier said than done). A collision into oncoming traffic could be even worse.
- Only break 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 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.