Opinion Former Article

RSPCA: Be a 'deer' and slow down

Research shows over 74,000 deer are involved in collisions with vehicles each year.

The RSPCA has asked motorists to slow down and look out for deer on the roads this autumn, as thousands of deer are hurt and killed by vehicles each year. This can also have significant human costs as well as being a major animal welfare problem.

Over one million deer live wild in Britain. The fact that their numbers are on the increase, combined with a rise in the volume of traffic on our roads, has resulted in a growing number of road traffic accidents each year.

Vehicles are thought to kill as much as 13 per cent of the fallow deer population every year. Many are not killed outright but left severely injured, often suffering for prolonged periods as a result.

Research* also indicates that several people are killed and over 700 injured annually as a result of accidents involving deer, either through direct collisions or swerving to avoid deer. The cost of damage to vehicles is estimated to be at least £17 million.

RSPCA wildlife scientist Sophie Adwick said: "It is shocking the sheer number of deer killed or maimed on our roads every year. These accidents are not only deadly for deer but can be extremely dangerous for drivers and passengers too.

"Motorists can help to reduce the death-toll by slowing down when they see warning signs and being ready to brake if they see deer, especially at dusk or dawn.

"It is especially important at this time of year when sika, fallow and red deer are rutting, on the move and are likely to wander onto the roads."

The period between October and January sees a peak in collisions between deer and cars. Shortening days and the changing of the clocks at the end of October also mean that peak traffic flows may coincide with deer movements at dawn and dusk, adding to the danger of road traffic accidents.

The RSPCA receives over 3,000 calls each year regarding deer accidents. A fact sheet has been produced to provide people with information on the issue; this can be found in the wildlife section of the RSPCA website (www.rspca.org.uk) or requested by calling the enquiries line (0300 123 4555).

The Society is also a member of the Deer Initiative (a partnership of statutory and voluntary organisations). Funded by the Highways Agency and other bodies, this study records detailed information and is being used to identify high-risk areas and key factors associated with collisions.

Notes for editors:

* Statistics provided by the National Deer Vehicles Collision Project.

  • Pictures and requests for interview available on request, please contact the press office on 0300 123 0244.
  • The A22 near the Ashdown Forest in East Sussex is the most dangerous road in the country for deer, with more than 10 collisions a year per kilometre of road, and 177 already in 2008. Hampshire has the highest number of deer collisions of any county.

Other significant accident blackspots include:

  • Cannock Chase in Staffordshire
  • Dinmore Hill in Herefordshire
  • Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire
  • The Mendips in Somerset
  • Halden Hill in Devon
  • The New Forest in Hampshire
  • The Southampton to Portsmouth area
  • Epping Forest in Essex
  • Ashridge Woods in Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire
  • Thetford Forest in Norfolk.

Advice for drivers to reduce risk of deer vehicle collisions:

  • Please take note of deer warning signs - they are positioned only where animals are known to cross the road.
  • Peaks in deer-related traffic collisions occur from October through December and in May. The highest risk periods are from sunset to midnight followed by the hours shortly before and after sunrise. Be particularly vigilant at these times.
  • Be aware that further deer may well cross after the ones you have noticed, as they tend to congregate in herds.
  • After dark, do use full-beams when there is no opposing traffic. The headlight beam will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and provide greater driver reaction time. But when a deer or other animal is noted on the road, dim your headlights as animals startled by the full-beam may 'freeze' rather than leaving the road.
  • Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic. Try to come to a stop as far in front of the animals as possible to enable it to leave the roadside without panic.
  • Report any deer-vehicle collisions to the police (who should be able to contact the local person best placed to assist with an injured deer at the roadside).


RSPCA, Wilberforce Way, Southwater, Horsham, West Sussex RH13 9RS
Press office direct lines: 0300 123 0244/0288 Fax: 0303 123 0099
Duty press officer (evenings and weekends) Tel 0870 0555500 and ask for pager number 828825
Email: press@rspca.org.uk Website: www.rspca.org.uk

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