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Deer toll alert for Sussex drivers
Deer fatalities have soared on Sussex roads by 38% in the last year with 610 deaths in the first nine months of 2012 alone.
Wealden and Mid Sussex are the most deadly districts in the county, making up 221 and 116 of the total.
Elsewhere Horsham, Chichester and Rother rate highly with fatalities even occurring in the likes of Brighton and Hove and Lewes.
Dr Jochen Langbein, who is behind the Deer Collisions website, said: “Sussex has a very large population of deer. It’s difficult to estimate numbers but I think it would be at least 20,000.
“People think Ashdown Forest is the only danger zone, but if you look at the map, you’ll see that you have to be careful wherever you are driving in the county.”
Dr Langbein added that along some stretches of the A22 there are ten or more deer collisions per kilometre per year.
Sections of the B2026 between Uckfield and the Kent border have similar numbers while areas perhaps not considered to be dangerous, such as the M23, also saw a number of collisions.
Map of deer collision locations in the past ten years
He added: “Although it is often the deer that comes off worse, there have been human fatalities in Sussex.
“The fallow deer especially are very big animals and can do some serious damage.”
The county’s deer population is particularly mobile in the late spring but there is also a spike in fatalities from the clocks going back in the autumn right through to the new year.
Sussex Police, which assigned an officer to monitor deer collisions in the county, tracks fatality figures for the animal.
Chief Inspector Martin Sims said: “Deer fatalities have soared on Sussex roads.
“It is probably thanks to a lot of work by landowners and local authorities that the figure isn’t higher.
“Drivers should be wary in areas where deer numbers are known to be high and where the warning is backed by speed restrictions and signs.
“It’s invariably the animal that comes off worse, but there’s a high incidence of significant damage to vehicles and times when car drivers and passengers can be seriously or even fatally injured.”
He added: “Deer populations are constantly on the move as they look for food and the hotspots move with them. Currently, the bendy road between Wych Cross and Forest Row is experiencing the main bulk of the fatalities.”
However Dr Langbein said that it was unlikely that there had been an actual 40% increase in fatalities.
He added: “I think the increase is more down to improvements in reporting and recording incidents.
“I find it very hard to believe that there have been 40% more fatalities and I don’t think drivers should be alarmed.”
For more advice and to report a collision visit deercollisions.co.uk.
Deer collision locations and hot spots in 2012
Dr Jochen Langbein’s top tips for staying safe in deer country
Take note of signs
Drivers can become complacent due to the sheer number of signs. However, they are all in place for a reason so if you come across one you will be in an area where deer are known to cross the road.
Take extra care during peak times
Peaks in deer-related traffic collisions occur October through December, followed by May. Highest-risk periods are from sunset to midnight followed by the hours shortly before and after sunrise.
Use full beam
After dark, use full-beams when there is no opposing traffic. The headlight beam will illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway and provide greater driver reaction time. However, when a deer or other animal is noted on the road, dim your headlights as animals startled by the beam may ‘freeze’ rather than leaving the road.
Deer usually travel in numbers so if you see one there is likely to be more not too far behind.
Don't over-swerve to avoid hitting a deer. If a collision with the animal seems inevitable, then hit it while maintaining full control of your car. The alternative of swerving into oncoming traffic or a ditch could be even worse. An exception here may be motorcyclists, who are at particular risk when in direct collisions with animals.
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