Drivers across the UK are being warned to look out for deer on country roads.

Figures collated from various studies suggest that at least 400 people could be injured in deer-related collisions each year, and potentially around 20 people killed.

As many as 1.5 million wild deer live across Britain. Deer collisions peak at this time of year as many animals cross roads seeking new territories. The highest risk of collisions is between sunset and midnight, and the hours shortly before and after sunrise.

“Sadly, the outcome of a collision involving a deer can be much more catastrophic than vehicle damage or injury to the animal,” said Leonardo Gubert, Senior Ecologist at Highways England. “You may be well-travelled and on a well-known route without a previous sighting, but there may be deer hidden in nearby foliage or woodlands and some species of deer can gather often in large groups; you may have seen one and avoided it but others may follow and unexpectedly dart out into the roadway.”

The Deer Initiative and Highways England have teamed up to give the following advice to drivers:

  • When you see deer warning signs or are travelling through a heavily wooded or forested stretch of road, check your speed and stay alert
  • If your headlights are on, use full beams when you can, but dip them if you see deer as they may ‘freeze’ on the spot instead of leaving the road
  • If you see a deer, look for another. They often gather in herds and follow each other as they move through the landscape.
  • Only brake sharply and stop if there is no danger of being hit by following traffic, use your hazard lights. Try to come to a stop as far away from an animal as possible to enable it to leave the roadside without panic. Try not to suddenly swerve to avoid a deer. Hitting oncoming traffic or another obstacle could lead to a more serious collision.
  • If you must stop, use your hazard warning lights

Recently, Highways England traffic officers removed five dead deer in one day from the central reservation on the A35.

Figures collated from a number of studies suggest that while it is safe to say 40,000 deer are killed in vehicle collisions every year, this figure could be as high as 74,000 across Britain as a whole.

“The recent spate of accidents is a stark reminder about the dangers of deer on our roads,” said David Jam, Director of The Deer Initiative. “We urge drivers to check their speed and stay alert especially when they see deer warning signs or are travelling through a heavily wooded or forested stretch of road.”

If you hit a deer while driving, your priorities in this order are:

  • Keep yourself and anyone with you as safe as you can
  • Park your car in the safest place with hazard lights on – consider using it to also warn other road users
  • Call an ambulance if human injuries warrant it
  • Call the police

Drivers are urged to report any incidents via the Deer Aware website.