A new traffic sign featuring a hedgehog will soon appear on roads across the UK to warn drivers of potential hazards from the spiky animals and other forms of small wildlife.
Transport secretary Chris Grayling unveiled the sign on Monday, and said it could be placed in areas where accident rates are highest.
The warning is also designed to reverse the decline in small wildlife numbers, especially hedgehogs – whose population in rural areas has halved since 2000.
It is aimed at complementing other signs already used on UK roads, filling a gap between warnings about creatures such as migratory toads and wildfowl, and large animals such as deer and livestock.
Mr Grayling said: “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.”
He added: “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 minister is calling on local authorities and animal welfare groups to identify accident and wildlife hotspots exactly where the signs should be located.
Mr Grayling met with road safety experts on Monday, including Brake, the AA and the RAC Foundation, together with animal protection groups including the Wildlife Trust, to discuss the scale of the problem.
To improve road safety for everyone, we are launching a new warning sign for use in accident hotspots involving small wild animals.
Find out more: https://t.co/u5Ge2ONStf
#RoadSafety #WilderFuture pic.twitter.com/rmkYrBuuAj— Dept for Transport (@transportgovuk)June 17, 2019
Between 2005 and 2017, 100 people were killed and just over 14,000 injured in accidents involving an animal in the road.
Tony Campbell, chief executive of the Motorcycle Industry Association (MCIA), said his organisation was “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), added: “At PTES roadkill has long been a concern … We welcome this focus on road safety and protection for all small mammals.
“We have also joined forces with the British Hedgehog Preservation Society to deliver the Hedgehog Street campaign, meeting with Mr Grayling to express our concerns for hedgehogs on roads and elsewhere.”
The move comes shortly before the Department of Transport’s updated road safety statement and two-year action plan are published.