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The New Forest National Park Authority and Verderers are asking drivers to be more careful when they're driving through the New Forest, following a surge of animal accidents during November.
During the first two weeks of November there were 20 accidents, including five fatalities, three injuries and two hit and runs; 19 of these accidents happened in the dark.
Nigel Matthews, Community & Visitor Services Manager at the New Forest National Park Authority, said:
"We want to urge drivers to be more alert. Drivers should look out for dark-coloured ponies which are often more difficult to see, especially at night.
"It is important to drive at a sensible speed, give animals a wide berth and make sure you can stop if one steps out onto the road at the last minute. Ponies have no road sense so it is up to the driver to take precautions and slow down when necessary.
"It’s not just the animals that are at risk in an accident. Even at moderate speeds, the results could be catastrophic for your passengers and vehicle too."
Sue Westwood, Clerk to the Verderers, said:
"This is the worst spate of animal accidents for a long time.
"We are disappointed and want to remind people once again to be more vigilant when driving through the Forest. If vehicles are coming towards you, slow down, so that you can see and have time to react if an animal steps out or crosses the road in front of you.
"It is particularly difficult to see an animal that comes from the right-hand side when you are driving as your vision is compromised by the lights of oncoming vehicles.
"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 the successful prosecution of a driver, who fails to report an accident with a commoners’ animal, can claim a reward of up to £1000.
"In recent years a number of drivers have been successfully prosecuted for failing to stop and report an accident with a Forest animal and the Verderers have paid several rewards."
If you witness an accident:
If you witness or are involved in an accident involving a pony, donkey, cow, pig or sheep, call the Police (999 for an emergency or 101 if it’s not an emergency). Animal emergency hotline cards also give you the numbers to call if you see sick, injured or distressed animals. Cards are available from garages and Local Information Points across the New Forest. To stock the cards contact the New Forest National Park Authority at firstname.lastname@example.org.