The UK’s Department for Transport (DfT) has unveiled a new traffic sign, featuring a hedgehog, which warns road users about the potential danger of small animals on the route ahead.
According to the latest DfT figures, hundreds of people are injured every year in collisions involving animals in the road. In 2017, a total of 629 people were injured in accidents involving an animal in the road (excluding horses) and four people were killed. In the period between 2005 and 2017, a total of 100 people were killed, with a further 14,173 injured in accidents where an animal was in the road.
Featuring a hedgehog, a small spiny mammal found in Europe, Asia and Africa, the new traffic warning sign was launched by UK Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, who noted that it could be placed in areas where accident rates are highest. The DfT is calling on local authorities and animal welfare groups to help identify accident and wildlife hotspots where the sign should be located. The road sign is also designed to reverse the decline in wildlife numbers, in particular, hedgehogs whose population in rural areas has halved since 2000.
The small wildlife sign complements other warning signs already used on UK roads, filling a gap between warnings about smaller animals such as migratory toads and wildfowl, and large animals such as deer and livestock. The new signs will be used to warn motorists in areas where there are large concentrations of small wild animals, including squirrels, rabbits, badgers, otters and hedgehogs. The introduction comes shortly before a refreshed Road Safety Statement and two-year action plan are published, which will look at further ways to reduce the number of deaths on the roads. The Transport Secretary has also met with road safety experts, including the Brake charity, the AA and the RAC, together with animal protection groups including the Wildlife Trust, to discuss the scale of the problem.
“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,” noted Grayling at the new sign’s launch. “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.”
Tony Campbell, chief executive of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), said, “Powered two-wheelers provide a great solution to road congestion, but like all road users, riders must be aware of those around them. Therefore, the MCIA is pleased to welcome these new signs that will help everyone, including those on two wheels or four legs, complete their journeys more safely.”
Jill Nelson, CEO at People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES), commented, “At PTES roadkill has long been a concern, which is why we launched our ‘Mammals on Roads’ survey. We welcome this focus on road safety and protection for all small mammals.”