Beware Deer, Drivers Warned

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has issued its usual autumn warning to motorists that collisions with deer increase in certain parts of Scotland at this time of year.

Ben Starav and the Etive red deer, 173 kb
Ben Starav and the Etive red deer
© JamesRoddie, Apr 2010

Car accidents involving deer peak at about the time the clocks turn back. With the nights starting earlier the peak commuting/home-from-the-hill time coincides with deer coming out to feed on grass verges near roadsides. Anyone who's driven across Rannoch Moor at night will know all too well about deer danger, but this is only one of the more obvious black spots. There's a risk even on motorways, say SNH.

Because of this SNH, in conjunction with Transport Scotland and Traffic Scotland, are placing warning messages on electronic variable messaging signs from 29 October to 14 November. These will warn motorists at key locations on the main trunk roads across West and Northwest Scotland - the A9, A87, A82 and the A835.

The 'latest research' [which SNH also cited this time last year] shows 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 £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 [to people], with a cost of over £17m.

In case you think most incidents with deer occur on more remote Highland roads, bear in mind that up to 70 percent occur on trunk roads or motorways [we'd guess that's a consequence of greater traffic volumes rather than a higher probability? Ed.]. In addition, 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, according to the Deer Vehicle Collisions Project.

Sinclair Coghill, SNH Deer Management Officer, said:

'We advise 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 do hit a deer, report it to the police, as the deer may be fatally injured and suffering.'

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 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.

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