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Nearly 100 drivers have been stopped and educated about the dangers of speeding on New Forest roads since November 2021. A joint campaign between New Forest Heart Neighbourhood Team, Hampshire & Thames Valley Roads Policing Unit and other local stakeholder partners, aims to reduce the number of animal collisions and deaths on rural roads.
It comes after a high number of road traffic accidents involving New Forest ponies and wild deer on Roger Penny Way and other surrounding routes in the New Forest over the past 12 months.
The police-led multi-agency approach to animal related injuries and / or deaths was launched in conjunction with the New Forest Animal Accident Group – which is supported by a number of partners including Forestry England and New Forest National Park Authority.
Between 1 November 2021 and 1 February 2022, ‘days of action’ under the banner of Operation Mountie were carried out where enforcement action was taken against those putting the lives of themselves and animals roaming in these areas, at risk.
The operations also sought to educate a wide range of motorists on the importance of driving to the conditions when travelling on Forest roads.
During the three months on Roger Penny Way and surrounding roads:
• 86 vehicles were stopped for speeding offences
• 16 people received tickets for speeding and invalid licences
• 69 motorists received educational advice from partners agencies who form the New Forest Animal Group
• Three vehicles were seized due to having no insurance or not having a valid driving licence
The operation is supported by the Safer Roads Unit Mobile Camera Team and resulted in a further 112 fixed penalty notices being issued for speeding offences along Roger Penny Way, the B0379 and on the A31 between Stoney Cross and Emery Down.
Sergeant Dave Hazlett, of Hampshire & Thames Valley Police’s Road Safety Unit, said: “Driving above the speed limit, especially during hours of darkness and in poor weather such as heavy rain or severe fog, can have devastating consequences. Sadly, there have been a number of animal deaths on New Forest roads as a result over the past 12 months; some of these could have been avoided had those motorists been travelling within the speed limit or driving appropriately for the conditions.
“Operation Mountie has engaged with several hundred motorists over the past three months, seeking to educate them on the dangers of exceeding the speed limit and taking robust enforcement action where necessary. This is a serious and emotive issue which has huge significance for the local community. We are committed to ensuring that the New Forest remains a safe place for animals to roam freely, while reducing the number of serious collisions.
“We will continue to work with key partners including New Forest National Park Authority, Forestry England and Commoners Defence Association to raise awareness of animals killed by collisions in the New Forest area and improve safety.
“Remember, a speed limit is exactly that – a limit. Not a target. Driving to the road conditions especially in reduced visibility gives drivers the best chance to react to any animals in the vicinity of the road. It is simply not worth the risk. There are consequences for drivers, the animals, the owners of the animals and we are seeking to reduce harm and preserve the unique environment of the New Forest.”
Charlotte Belcher, Community Manager for Forestry England, said: “Working with the police and forest groups on these regular days of action means we can really effectively target motorists behaving recklessly on forest roads and educate many hundreds more. Anyone driving on Forest roads at this time of year needs to take special care and drive to the conditions. Animals can be on or near the road at any time and visibility is often poor. On these unfenced roads always expect the unexpected and be prepared to stop for animals.”
Gillie Molland, Lead Ranger for the New Forest National Park Authority, said: “As part of The New Forest’s Animal Accident Reduction Group, it’s great to be involved in further measures on the most dangerous routes during these winter months when accidents peak. After talking with drivers, we’ve learned that many don’t realise animals do not have any road sense so may step out in front of you even if you think they have seen you. It’s also important to pass livestock slow and wide and remember in freezing or wet conditions stopping distances will be increased, so please allow extra time for your journeys.”
If you witness, or are involved, in a collision with an animal on New Forest roads please dial Hampshire Constabulary on 999 immediately and use #What3Words to give a location.
The New Forest Animal Accident Group is supported by the New Forest Commoners Defence Association, Forestry England, Verderers of the New Forest, New Forest National Park Authority, New Forest District Council, Hampshire County Council, Hampshire Constabulary, New Forest Trust, New Forest Association, British Deer Society and New Forest Roads Awareness.