THE DEPARTMENT for Transport (DfT) has launched a new traffic sign that it hopes will reduce the number of road accidents caused by small animals in the road while also cutting the number of animals harmed or killed.
The new hedgehog-depicting signs (which were first suggested in April 2018) are to be installed in areas where drivers are most at risk of encountering a number of additional smaller species including otters, squirrels and badgers.
Councils and welfare groups are being asked to suggest the ideal places across the country to install them, in areas with high concentrations of the animals.
In 2017, the Secretary of State for Transport Chris Grayling, was appointed “Species Champion for Hedgehogs” in Parliament as part of a scheme created by a coalition of animal welfare organisations to partner with MPs. The aim is to bring about political support for the protection and promotion of threatened wildlife.
Hedgehogs are thought to be at extremely high at risk of being hit by vehicles, with The Mammal Society estimating between 167,000 and 335,000 hedgehogs are killed by road traffic in the UK every year.
While animals are far more likely to come off worse in a road accident, 629 people were injured and four people were killed in accidents involving animals in the road in 2017, according to the latest DfT statistics, with 14,273 casualties from animal-related accidents since 2005.
Grayling said: “We have some of the safest roads in the world but we are always looking at how we can make them safer. Motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users are particularly at risk.
“The new small mammal warning sign should help to reduce the number of people killed and injured, as well as helping our precious small wild mammal population to flourish.”