The animal on that warning sign is a Red Deer. An adult Red Deer is the length of a BMW R1200GS … It is the height of a BMW R1200GS… And weighs as much as a BMW R1200GS … If you hit it, you will be taking part in just one of the 50,000 to 80,000 motor vehicle - deer collisions that take place every year in the UK. Not only are thousands of deer killed, but every year about 700 people are injured and 15 people are killed in these incidents.
The average cost of repair for cars following a deer collision is in the region of £2,500, clearly the scope for damage and serious injury for motorcyclists in a collision doesn’t bear thinking about. As riders who enjoy using some of the more remote roads in some of England’s most forested regions we are at particular risk of encountering deer on the roads so it is something we should be aware of and seeking to minimise the effects on us and our wildlife. Whilst deer may be encountered almost anywhere in extensive woodland, the A22 across Ashdown Forest is the most dangerous road in the country for deer collisions with as many as 11 500 incidents every year.
Epping Forest is another area very high in the deer collision league table. Even the more open surroundings of the Royal Parks are not safe – a colleague had their car written off by a deer in Richmond Park. As with almost all motorcycle hazards, the key is to recognise the risks and clues in advance, and having a plan for dealing with the hazard when it arises. Fortunately, a number of organisations publish advice on avoiding and responding to deer collisions and the following is an attempt to distil that advice into something of greatest relevance to motorcyclists.
Deer Safety Tips
- Deer accidents peak in May, October and November.
- Sunset to midnight and around sunrise are the worst times as this is when deer are likely to be on the move.
- Some areas have bigger problems than others - are you in one?
- The "deer" or "wild animal" sign is there for a reason - and means deer accidents happen near here.
- Deer tend to move in groups, sometimes of twenty or more animals. If you see one deer cross, there may well be several others crossing or about to cross at the same point.
- Deer are well camouflaged for their environment. When faced with danger their natural instincts are to run, hide, or freeze depending on how exposed they feel they are. If you surprise them at night, there is a good chance they will simply stand still or lie down and hope you have not noticed them! Watch the way you ride
- Remember that however well you can read the road and however far you can see there is no traffic, a deer can appear almost instantly. Nature makes them hard to see and they don't follow the green cross code!
- Use full beam headlamps when it is dark - unless of course you are about to dazzle another road user. This is especially important as the first thing you will see of a deer will be the reflection of your headlights in its eyes.
- Look for these reflections in the roadside undergrowth as they may indicate a deer about to move onto the road.
- Dip your lights if you see a deer, otherwise it may "freeze" in your path.
- Though your instinct may be to swerve or brake hard to try to avoid a deer if one appears suddenly in your path - sudden manoeuvres can result in a loss of control increasing the risk of hitting a tree or another vehicle.
- If it is safe to stop, try to do so well away from the deer if possible, and let them move on.
- Use hazard warning lights if available to warn following vehicles whilst you are stationary.
- There appears no definitive advice on using the horn – it may alert deer unaware of your approach, it may make them freeze.
If the worst happens:
- Make sure that you stop somewhere safe, and if you can't do your best to ensure that your accident isn't hit by other vehicles.
- It is normally best not to approach injured deer – they can be very dangerous.
- Report the accident to the police (who should be able to contact someone who can assist an injured deer) using the emergency or non-emergency number as appropriate. A warning
- If you miss the deer, but hit something else, remember it will be very hard to prove that the deer ever existed. A warning for the future
- Wild boar are also on the increase in Surrey …
by Julian Barker LAM First published in Progress December 2009