Drivers urged to be deer aware

Drivers in  Ayrshire are being advised to look out for deer wandering onto major roads during May.
Drivers in Ayrshire are being advised to look out for deer wandering onto major roads during May.

Drivers across Ayrshire are being advised to look out for deer wandering onto trunk roads and motorways, particularly during May.

Vehicle accidents involving deer peak at this time of year, as young deer disperse, crossing major roads to look for their own territories. Scotland TranServ has identified hot spots on the A77 between Ayr and Kilmarnock and the A78 Three Towns’ Bypass.

Dr Jochen Langbein, who oversees the deer vehicle collisions project, said: “Deer populations have expanded significantly over recent decades especially in the lowland areas, and at least 40 per cent of accidents occur on A-class trunk roads or motorways, including across much of south west Scotland’s road network.”

It is estimated that in Scotland there are around 9,000 collisions per year, resulting in anywhere between 50 and 100 human injuries, with the total cost of material damage and injury thought to be around £9.5 million.

Tommy Docherty, Scotland TranServ’s network control centre manager added: “Our teams are particularly busy at this time of year, tackling the aftermath of deer collisions; not only the loss of life of this beautiful native animal, but the damage to cars and indeed injuries to drivers and passengers.

“Last year they recovered 163 dead deer from the trunk road network across south west Scotland. Their main function is to keep the road safe, but often they need to contact animal welfare experts for them to put the injured deer out of its misery.”

Across the UK, there are some 1.5 million deer living in the wild, with six main species, with roe deer, red deer, sika and fallow deer and increasingly roe deer are becoming established within urban areas such as Glasgow, Kilmarnock, Dumfries, Paisley, East Kilbride and Ayr.

Angus Corby from Transport Scotland said: “We are the government agency responsible for the trunk road network, so it’s important that we help raise awareness of the dangers that deer can cause, especially at this time of year, whilst also being mindful of the welfare of the deer themselves.

“Our operating companies prepare annual plans to manage the impact of deer across the trunk road network and work with local landowners to manage the issue. We liaise closely on all manner of wildlife issues with Scottish Natural Heritage and other national bodies, and also run an annual campaign on our network of variable message signs to remind motorists of the potential risk of wild deer crossing our roads. This campaign provides tips on how to deal with deer on the roads and I would encourage drivers to follow that advice.”

IAM Roadsmart’s Tim Shallcross added: “Deer are well camouflaged and make use of cover such as trees as a defence against predators. Maximise your vision by using your headlights at dusk and dawn – don’t rely on daytime running lights. Watch for the reflections of your lights in their eyes – two small points of light ahead could be a deer looking at you.

“Deer are social animals – if one crosses the road ahead of you, slow right down because the rest of the herd may be close behind and will follow without looking for traffic. Finally, if deer stop in the road ahead, a single blast of the horn for a couple of seconds will often scare them away, but slow down first. Don’t assume the deer will move and make sure you can stop safely if it doesn’t.”

While Scotland TranServ would advise drivers to remain vigilant to the potential of deer wandering onto our trunk roads there are other efforts that motorists can take to avoid a deer strike and potential damage to their car or injury to themselves. The top five driving tips are:

Be extra vigilant where you see ‘deer’ or ‘wild animal’ road signs;

Use your high-beam headlights (without dazzling other drivers) when it’s dark, but dip them if you see a deer, otherwise it may freeze in your path;

Don’t over-react or swerve excessively. It’s safer to continue on your normal track rather than swerving or braking hard to try to avoid a deer;

If you do hit a deer, try to stop somewhere safe;

Report the accident to the police – they’ll contact the correct authorities who can help the injured deer.

Andy Fraser, Scotland TranServ’s operating company representative concluded: “We would advise all drivers to keep an eye out for deer straying onto our trunk roads particularly at this time of year. Because they are young, they are less aware of our busy roads. Stay vigilant as these young deer can appear quite suddenly out of the fields and woodland that border much of the region’s trunk road network.”