Nigel Matthews, Community & Visitor Services Manager at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘It can often take a while for people to adjust to the darker evenings and there is usually a significant rise in accidents in November.
‘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.
‘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 successful prosecution can claim a reward of up to £1000.’
‘The Verderers have issued several rewards in recent years and a number of drivers have been successfully prosecuted for failing to stop and report an accident with a Forest animal.
‘Drivers who do report accidents are unlikely to be prosecuted, but if a driver fails to report an accident and is caught, the Verderers will always encourage the police to prosecute and the police are generally very willing to do so.’
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
Take extra care when there are animals on the verges on both sides of the road – they may cross to join their friends.
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. Alternatively ring the Verderers’ Office during normal working hours on 023 8028 2052 (Monday-Friday 9am-5 pm) or the Forestry Commission on 023 8028 3141 (24 hours) to report sick or injured 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/
Karen Evans-McDaid, Communications Officer, New Forest National Park Authority
Tel: 01590 646650
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The New Forest National Park lies mainly in south-west Hampshire; it is famous for its stunning landscapes,wildlife,coastline & picturesque villages. It is the eighth national park in England and the first in the south-east to be created for nearly 50yrs.