British Deer Society and AA warn of a new danger as quieter roads, a twilight rush-hour and seasonal migrations combine
42% of young and least experienced drivers have encountered more deer and wildlife during or after the lockdown
Eastern England stands out as epicentre of increased incidences of dead and alive deer spotted by drivers
Quieter evening roads from a second wave of Covid nightlife restrictions threaten a resurgence of the deer and other wildlife collisions that marked the original lockdown and soon after, warns the British Deer Society and the AA. Roads with much less traffic lull animals into a false sense of security.
Two-fifths of people most likely to be driving later in the evening said they encountered more deer and other animals on the road during the first lockdown and afterwards. Latest Government statistics (14 October) * show Covid restrictions, even before wider restrictions in the past seven days, have cut car traffic to 85% of pre-lockdown levels.
In May, emergency services in the South West had warned of more deer activity on roads during the lockdown following collisions **. However, a survey among 13,800 AA members *** found the epicentre of deer encounters and collisions was in the east of England.
While one in 20 drivers (5%) across the UK said they had seen more deer killed or roaming on the road during or since the spring lockdown, that figure shot up to one in nine (11%-12%) in eastern counties.
Of particular concern to the British Deer Society and the AA are the high percentages of the young and least experienced drivers who have run into deer and other wildlife on these quieter roads.
While, overall, 16% of UK drivers have seen an increase in deer and other wildlife on roads during or since the lockdown, 42% of 18 to 24-year olds have come across more animals while driving.
On minor roads, 17% of those younger drivers, probably because they are most likely to drive in the evening for sport and social activities, have encountered more live deer and 9% have seen more dead deer.
On main roads, among the same age group of drivers, 13% have seen more alive deer and 10% have seen more carcases.
Likelihood of increased deer and wildlife encounters during or after a lockdown
Eastern England – 33%
Scotland – 30%
South West – 27%
South East – 24%
Yorkshire and Humberside – 23%
East Midlands – 23%
West Midlands – 20%
Northern Ireland – 19%
London – 18%
North East – 18%
Wales – 17%
North West – 15%
David McAuley, British Deer Society’s CEO, stated – “Road traffic accidents involving deer are sadly an all too frequent occurrence in the UK as well as in many other countries, especially in Autumn and Early winter, during breeding season. We would urge drivers to be extra careful especially on roads where there are wildlife warning signs, and also driving through rural areas.”
“The quieter roads due to Covid-19 restrictions have also made this year’s statistics more concerning and we would especially urge all drivers to be more deer aware as the evidence shows an increase in collisions during the first Covid-19 lockdown.”
Driving deer aware means reducing speed and watching out for deer on the edge of the road, especially at dawn and dusk. If you see a deer crossing in front of your car, slow down and expect more to follow. After dark, do use full-beam when there is no opposing traffic. BUT, when a deer or other animal is noted on the road, dim your headlights.
Do not swerve to avoid deer — it could result in a more severe crash. And only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic. If an accident does occur, drivers and passengers should not attempt to remove dead or injured deer. Call the Police, giving as precise a location as you can. They will deal with road safety issues and have access to specialists who will know the best course of action for the animal if it is alive. For more advice visit https://www.deeraware.com/
Edmund King, the AA’s president says: “AA members and patrols had reported a greater incidence of deer and other wildlife on roads during the lockdown and for a while after. Alive and dead deer were being spotted on roads you would not normally expect to see them, such as closer to and even within villages and other places of human population.
“The AA survey illustrates and quantifies the risk of increased wildlife collisions when roads become quieter with pubs and other evening hospitality closed or reducing their opening hours because of the coronavirus. There is a clear warning to evening and early-morning drivers in general to be on their guard, but in particular young drivers who are more active on the roads at night.”
*** The survey was conducted by Populus among 13,800 AA members between the 15th and 22nd of September 2020.