Nigel Matthews, Head of Visitor and Recreation Services at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘It can often take a while for people to adjust to the darker evenings. In 2009 there were more animal accident deaths in October and November compared to any other time of year.
‘A lot of ponies wear reflective collars but many don’t, so drivers should look out for dark-coloured ponies which are often more difficult to see. It is important to drive at a sensible speed and to make sure you can stop if an animal steps onto the road at the last moment. Ponies have no road sense so it is up to the driver to be extra cautious.
‘It’s not just the animals that are at risk in an accident. If the driver is speeding the results could be catastrophic for their passengers too.’
Sue Westwood, Clerk to the Verderers added: ‘Now is a timely reminder that we all need to be extra careful when driving in the New Forest, especially at the moment. There is a large glut of acorns this year so there are more ponies on the verges than usual trying to eat them.
‘Animal accidents are not only difficult for the people involved but also for the Agisters whose job it is to find the animal, which may have been suffering for hours.
She continued: ‘Hit and runs are the most distressing of accidents – it’s vital that you report an accident straight away. Anyone who gives information leading to a prosecution can claim a reward of up to £1000.’
- Be ready to stop - ponies may step out even when they’ve seen you approaching
- Drive slowly, especially at night and when other cars are approaching with their headlights on
- Give animals grazing by the side of the road a wide berth
- Remember that deer easily jump the fences alongside roads like the A337, A31 and A35 and when there is one deer more will usually follow
- The faster you are going, the greater the damage will be to the animal, your car and your passengers - start your journey early so you don’t have to hurry.
If you witness an accident:
- Call 999 in an emergency or 0845 045 4545 in a non-emergency to report any road traffic accident involving a pony, cow, donkey, sheep, dog or deer.
- Call the Verderers’ Office on 023 8028 2052 (Monday-Friday 9am-5 pm) or the Forestry Commission on 023 8028 3141 (24 hours) to report sick commoning animals.
- Carry an animal accident hotline card, it tells you who to call and display an ‘I go slow for ponies’ car sticker. Visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/animal_accident_help for more information on how to get a card and sticker.