When learning to drive, you’re told you should never swerve or brake heavily to avoid an animal running across the road to protect the safety of other motorists.
And it appears that many drivers have been listening to instruction, after a freedom of information request to British road authorities revealed they received reports of almost 4,000 dead animals in 2016 and 2017.
While some drivers might be traumatised after running down one of these creatures, others see it as their next meal, with 18 per cent of Britons claiming they already have – or would consider – eating roadkill.
Oh deer: Some 1,117 deer were the casualty of car collisions in 2016 and 2017, causing damage that incurred average repair bills of £255 for motorists
According to Highways England, Transport Scotland and the Welsh Department of Transport, some 3,907 dead animals have been reported on major routes across Britain in the last 24 months.
None of these figures include the furry fatalities at the side of smaller local roads, with stats for these instances held by local councils rather than the three authorities queried.
Based on these numbers, deer are the biggest casualties at the hands of road users.
Some 1,117 were found deceased at roadsides in 2016 and 2017, making up almost a third (29 per cent) of the total number of deceased animals over the two-year period.
Badgers were the second highest death count, at 915 (23 per cent) instances.
Animals killed on UK roads in 2016-2017
1. Deer – 1,117
2. Badgers – 915
3. Foxes – 756
4. Cats – 340
5. Dogs – 286
6. Unknown – 161
7. Otters – 61
8. Swans – 58
9. Owls – 53
10. Birds – 50
11. Sheep – 29
12. Hedgehogs – 20
13. Horses – 18
14. Polecats – 16
15. Pheasants/Rabbits/Cows – 4
16. Minks/Ferrets – 3
17. Pigs – 2
Heron/Wild Boar – 1
Source: Confused.com FOI request to Highways England, Transport Scotland and the Welsh Department of Transport
Sadly, common domestic animals also ranked highly in the toll, with 340 cats (9 per cent) and 286 dogs (7 per cent) killed by vehicles.
There were a few surprises on the list too – a wallaby killed on the M1 and a peacock on the A174 also featured in the figures.
The near-4,000 count is also not inclusive of the huge number of animals killed that aren’t reported by drivers, with 39 per cent of a 2,000-strong panel saying they’ve hit an animal on the road.
This might explain why the death toll provided for birds (50), pheasants (4) and rabbits (4) is so low.
The data also highlighted the routes where a high proportion of these animal are killed.
The A303, which stretches from Basingstoke to Devon, is England’s most deadly road for animals.
This route, which passes alongside the popular landmark Stonehenge, had reports of 434 dead animals, accounting for 12 per cent of the two-year total.
Confused.com said the high figure on this section of tarmac was possibly due to the road being very much in the thick of the countryside, though the numbers show that one in 15 (seven per cent) have run into an animal on a motorway, where you might expect fewer animals to wander.
Roadkill on the menu
And while for some it can be a very upsetting episode coming to terms with taking an animal’s life, for others it’s a means of attaining ingredients for dinner.
According to the survey, nearly one in five (18 per cent) Britons said they have – or would consider – eating roadkill.
These drivers aren’t picky about what’s on the menu, either – one in 10 would eat a swan and more than one in seven (15 per cent) would devour a squirrel.
Highways England, Transport Scotland and the Welsh Department of Transport reported that two pigs were killed on the road in 2016 and 2017
Other animals killed by drivers included a peacock and a wallaby
More prying into the survey results revealed that nearly half (49 per cent) of motorists have taken action to avoid hitting an animal on the road.
Some 43 per cent said they braked heavily to dodge a tearaway animal, while 40 per cent have swerved – both of which would leave a driver liable if they were to cause an accident with another road user.
Just 11 per cent of those asked said they refused to take action to avoid an animal to prevent putting other drivers (33 per cent), or themselves (22 per cent) at risk.
Amanda Stretton, motoring editor at Confused.com, said: ‘Unfortunately, being a driver means you have to make difficult decisions when it comes to facing an animal in the road and doing what is safest for yourself and other road users.
‘If swerving means putting yourself and other drivers at risk then this should be avoided.
‘Some drivers might also be tempted to jump out of the car and investigate a dead animal on the road, but this can also be risky.
‘Drivers should know which animals they are legally required to stop for.’
The A303 between Basingstoke and Devon (left) had the highest toll of reported dead animals. The countryside route goes past the sightseeing hotspot of Stonehenge (right)
Do I need to inform the local authority when I’ve hit an animal?
According to the Confused.com’s study, only one in seven (14 per cent) of those involved in an accident with an animal reported it, while most (58 per cent) said they knew they didn’t have to, because of the type of animal they hit.
But do you know which animals – both dead or injured – need to be reported and which don’t?
Here are the ones you need to legally own to up, as dictated by the Road Traffic Act 1988:
- donkeys and mules
There were also clear signs in the study that showed that drivers are more willing to take evasive action to avoid certain animals.
A whopping 80 per cent would brake or swerve for a dog, but only 47 per cent would do the same for a bird.
The cost of hitting larger animals can not only upset a driver emotionally, but financially too, with the average cost of repairing damaged caused by a collision with a deer or animal of a similar size being £255, Confused.com said.
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