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People who regularly drive across the New Forest are being urged to drive extra carefully this winter.
The New Forest National Park Authority and the Verderers want to remind people to be extra vigilant on their way to and from work; particularly after the clocks go back at the end of October.
Nigel Matthews, Community & Visitor Services Manager at the New Forest National Park Authority, said: "It can often take a while for people to adjust to the darker evenings and there is usually a significant rise in accidents in November.
A lot of ponies wear reflective collars but many don't, so drivers should look out for dark-coloured ponies which are often more difficult to see. It is important to drive at a sensible speed, within the 40mph limit, when safe to do so and to make sure you can stop if an animal steps onto the road at the last minute. Ponies have no road sense so it is up to the driver to be extra cautious. It's not just the animals that are at risk in an accident. If the driver is speeding the results could be catastrophic for their passengers and vehicle too."
Head Agister, Jonathan Gerrelli, added:
"Now is a timely reminder that we all need to be extra careful when driving in the New Forest. It is the law to report all accidents as soon as possible. However 31 accidents were not reported last year which resulted in unnecessary suffering for the animals. Anyone who gives information leading to a successful prosecution can claim a reward of up to £1,000.
The Verderers have issued several rewards in recent years and a number of drivers have been successfully prosecuted for failing to stop and report an accident with a Forest animal. Drivers who do report accidents are unlikely to be prosecuted, but if a driver fails to report an accident and is caught, the Verderers will always encourage the police to prosecute and the police are generally very willing to do."
They've issued some driving tips:
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).