With many people now spending more time at home due to current restrictions, the volume of traffic on the road will likely decrease. But for those still travelling to and from work or making other essential trips, some key road safety dangers remain. It’s a little-known fact that incidents involving deer don’t just happen on country roads, for example. In fact, more than half of deer and vehicle collisions in the UK occur on motorways. Wherever you are travelling, a collision with wildlife of any species is something you’ll want to avoid – not only to protect yourself, your passengers, your vehicle and the other road users around you, but also our lovely British animals.
Neil Greig, Policy & Research Director at IAM RoadSmart, has these useful tips to help you avoid colliding with wildlife when you are driving, and to know what steps to take if you do.
Keep an eye out for road signs: If there’s a high volume of animals in a particular area there will usually be road signs alerting motorists. These signs are there for a reason: animals tend to use the same routes every year, so areas of high risk are known.
Take care as the seasons change: Autumn is the time of highest risk of animals venturing unexpectedly into roads, as for many of them it is the time of year when they have their minds on other things!
Beware the pack: Many larger animals move in herds so, if you see one, expect a few others to turn up behind it. Get to know your local wildlife patterns so you get fewer surprises.
Use your lights: If you’re driving at night, make sure you are making full use of your lights, particularly if you’re travelling through the countryside. Using full beam when safe and legal to do so will increase visibility of any animals on the road; it can also warn animals that a vehicle is approaching.
Stick to the speed limits: With the majority of speed limits on rural roads set to 60mph it’s important to remember that speed limits aren’t a target. Winding and narrow single-carriageway country roads can challenge even confident drivers, so slow down when warned of animals to give yourself time to react. Also remember that travelling at a speed that you feel comfortable at – and at which you know you can stop safely in the distance you can see to be clear – is the safest way to travel.
What to do if you hit an animal: Just as you would in any collision involving another vehicle, if you hit an animal you should stop. Check that you, your passengers and your vehicle are all safe before approaching any animal. The Road Traffic Act states that legally you must report hitting dogs, horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys and mules to the police within 24 hours.
Helping injured animals on the road: If you are involved in a collision with an animal and it is injured, or if you see an injured animal on the road, stop when it is safe to do so. Make sure your vehicle is parked up in a safe place. If the animal is still on the carriageway, try to warn and divert traffic around it and wait until the coast is clear to assess the situation. Try to assess how badly it is hurt. If the animal isn’t too badly injured, wear gloves or use a cloth to touch it and try to move it to safety in the most pain-free way possible. It is important to keep the animal away from your face at all times, as the animal could try to attack or get away from you. If the animal is in a lot of distress, you may need to call the local vet or wildlife rehabilitator. With farm animals you should try to contact the local farmer if you can, as well as the police.
Neil said: “If you are travelling too fast or not paying attention, you may have to make that terrible decision between hitting a living animal or crashing off the road. So – to minimise any risk – be aware of nature’s seasonal variations in your local area and consider them as you plan your trips. A little knowledge plus good observation means you should be able to anticipate most problems and avoid injury to innocent animals or damage to your vehicle.”