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Plea to drivers to follow official diversions during Forest road closures

From this week the A35 and A31 will have road closures and diversions in place. Forest organisations are asking drivers to follow the official detours and not deviate onto unfenced roads to get to their destination.

The deadliest months for New Forest livestock are in winter, with most accidents taking place between 5pm and 10pm on weekdays and involving commuters. If drivers divert from the official detours onto unfenced Forest roads, a spike in animal accident deaths may well result.

In 2019, 58 animals were killed and a further 32 were injured whereas in 2020, when traffic was reduced by restrictions, 50 animals were killed and a further 21 were injured.

Forest organisations are appealing to road users to expect the unexpected and remember that animals have right of way on unfenced New Forest roads.

The New Forest National Park Authority’s Executive Director, Steve Avery said: ‘If you do travel on the unfenced roads, please take extra care and always be prepared to stop for New Forest animals. Animals do not have any road sense so may step out in front of you even if you think they have seen you. Other road users might be unfamiliar with the roads so may well be nervous and travel slower, so please allow extra time for your journey. Please be patient and don’t overtake unless you can clearly see the road ahead and any animals which may be grazing on the verges.’

Driving to the road and weather conditions is just as important as keeping to the speed limit. When the roads are freezing, stopping distances will be increased and animals are drawn to the road to lick the salt. Low light in winter, dazzling oncoming headlights and bad weather can make visibility extremely poor and may impede your view of the road ahead.

How drivers can help:

  • Follow the official diversions set by Hampshire Highways and not the satellite navigationIf you do have to use the unfenced roads please:

  • Be ready to stop – animals can step out even when they’ve seen you approaching.

  • Drive slowly, especially in the dark – there is a pool of darkness behind the headlights of approaching cars and an animal may be standing in it or crossing the road.

  • Give animals grazing by the side of the road a wide berth – move over to the other side of the road and be prepared to STOP if there is on-coming traffic.

  • Grazing animals on both sides of the road? Take extra care – they may cross to join their friends.

  • One animal by the roadside means there are others close by – be aware.

  • Bends and tops of hills need more care – animals may be standing in the road just out of sight.

  • Reflective collars worn by some ponies may help you see them in the dark – but be aware that not all ponies have them.

  • Deer can easily jump the fences alongside roads such as the A337, A31 and A35 – and when there is one deer more will usually follow.

  • Be animal aware at all times.

The New Forest’s Animal Accident Reduction Group has asked for a range of further measures on the most dangerous routes and additional warning signs on key roads during these winter months when accidents peak. Hampshire Police are constantly carrying out speed checks either with radar guns or the Police camera van - part funded by the Verderers of the New Forest.

The Group is supported by the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, Forestry England, Verderers of the New Forest, New Forest National Park Authority, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Constabulary, New Forest Trust, New Forest Association and British Deer Society and New Forest Roads Awareness.


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