High risk of deer on the roads in May

Motorists are being advised to look out for deer crossing the roads this month.
Motorists are being advised to look out for deer crossing the roads this month.

A new report has revealed collisions between vehicles and deer have increased by 10 per cent in Scotland.

The blueprint, commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and Transport Scotland, showed there has been a rise since the last figures were published.

Motorists are being advised to slow down and be on the lookout for deer, especially this month when incidents of deer-vehicle collisions (DVC) tend to increase as young deer disperse to look for their own territories.

From Monday, May 15 to Monday, June 5, SNH, working with Transport Scotland, has arranged warning messages to be displayed on variable messaging signs (VMS) on trunk roads across Scotland.

The VMS messages are targeted on roads with higher rates of deer-vehicle collisions, covering areas within the Central Belt around Glasgow and Edinburgh, as well as Stirling, Kinross, Perth, Dundee, Aberdeen and Inverness. The signs display the warning message: ‘Caution: high risk of deer on road.’

The report reveals that from January 2013 to December 2015, a sample of over 4,600 recorded collisions between vehicles and deer on Scottish roads were submitted to the project. However, taking into account the many incidents which go unreported, the report estimates the true figure could be 9,000 per year, resulting in 50 to 100 human injuries.

The highest number of collisions occurs in early evening through to midnight, with a slightly lower peak from 6am to 9am. The time of year when the highest number of incidents takes place is May and June, with high rates in autumn as well. The VMS campaign ensures warning messages are used during these times.

Jamie Hammond, SNH deer management officer, said: “This report confirms what we suspected: that accidents involving deer are becoming more common as deer spread into new areas. Particularly in peak times, we advise motorists to slow down and watch for deer crossing roads. Be aware that if you’re driving near woods, deer can suddenly appear before you have time to brake. If you do hit a deer, report it to the police even if you’re uninjured and your car isn’t damaged, as the deer may be fatally injured and suffering.”

Dr Jochen Langbein of the Deer Vehicle Collisions Project, who wrote the report for SNH, added: “In Scotland, as in the rest of the UK and many other European countries, wild deer numbers have increased significantly over recent decades. Roe deer in particular have become well established in the urban fringe of many major towns and have also spread into parks and other green spaces close to the centre of cities such Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. So although many people think most accidents with deer and vehicles occur on more remote Highland roads, in Scotland at least 40 percent occur on A-class trunk roads or motorways.”

The 2011 Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act introduced a Code of Practice on Deer Management to help everybody who owns or manages land on which wild deer occur to deliver sustainable deer management.

Angus Corby, Transport Scotland landscape advisor, said: “As the government agency responsible for the trunk road network, Transport Scotland requires our operating companies to prepare annual Deer Management Plans to take account of the likely impact of deer on the network and to develop possible mitigation strategies in association with adjacent local landowners.

“The annual VMS campaign, organised in partnership with our colleagues at SNH, forms part of this approach and is a useful means of ensuring road users are aware of the potential risk of wild deer crossing the road at this time of year.”

Driving tips to avoid deer include:

Try not to suddenly swerve to avoid hitting a deer. A collision into oncoming traffic could be even worse.

Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic. Try to come to a stop as far away from the animals as possible to allow them to leave the roadside without panic, and use your hazard warning lights.

After dark, use full-beams when there is no oncoming traffic, as this will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and give you more time to react. But dim your headlights when you see a deer or other animal on the road so you don’t startle it.

Report any deer-vehicle collisions to the police, who will contact the local person who can best help with an injured deer at the roadside. Do not approach an injured deer yourself – it may be dangerous.