Drivers ‘playing Russian roulette’ as five foals killed on the road

  • Campaigners are continuing appeals for drivers in the New Forest to slow down and give ponies and livestock space after five foals have been killed in less than three weeks.

    In the most recent incident (15 June), a hit and run driver left a foal alive at the side of the road with a broken back. The filly was found by a passerby and was euthanised by agisters.

    The same dam, owned by commoner Luke Blomfield, also had her foal killed by a driver last year.

    “We put up a post about it on social media and it’s had almost 500,000 shares, so we hope the message gets through to people,” said commoner Sarah Weston, who has co-founded the New Forest Roads Campaign. “The commoners have taken great steps to produce the best foals they can and in limited numbers, and its awful to see.

    “It’s hard to understand the callousness of people playing Russian roulette with the ponies like this.”

    Sarah added that the campaign is striving to convey two key messages — to ask drivers to slow down and take care, and not to feed the ponies as this encourages them to approach cars and come closer to the road.

    “This year’s foals seem tamer than ever and you sometimes see them lounging about in the road waiting for passing cars,” she cautioned.

    More than half of the recent deaths have been hit and run accidents, even though those reporting hitting a pony will not be subject to penalty unless it can be proved that they were driving dangerously.

    The New Forest verderers currently offer a £5,000 reward for anyone who identifies a motorist involved in a hit and run.

    “People are obliged, by law, to stop at the scene and find out who owns the pony and if they can’t, then they are obliged to report it as soon as is practical or within 24 hrs — which means driving to the nearest place where they have signal and ringing,” Sarah said.

    “You can report it the same way as any other accident — call the police on 101 or 999 and they will contact the agisters.”

    Statistics where drivers have reported accidents or have been traced show that local motorists are among the least likely to hit livestock.

    “I’m keen to dispel the myth that it’s locals,” Sarah added. “One in five drivers is a local, two in five are commuters from the outskirts of the forest and two in five are from further afield — although tourists tend to drive more slowly.

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    Statistics from the verderers’ office reveal that there have been 51 livestock accidents documented in the first six months of this year, with 17 ponies killed so far — compared to 18 during this period in 2017.

    “There have been a few hit and runs involving foals in recent weeks — sadly there are always a few — and there isn’t always an obvious reason why we see a spike in accidents,” said clerk to the Verderers Sue Westwood. “It’s the time of year when the foals are getting bolder and braver and stray a bit further from their mothers and it’s always risky for them.”

    Sue believes that drivers not giving livestock enough space contributes to accidents even more than speed.

    “It’s all about being considerate really,” she added. “You ask people if they’d drive that closely past a toddler they saw standing alone and they say ‘no’. So why would you do it to a foal?”

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