NEARLY 90 drivers have been stopped and educated about the dangers of speeding on New Forest roads in the past few weeks.

A joint campaign involving New Forest Heart Neighbourhood Team, Hampshire & Thames Valley Roads Policing Unit and other local stakeholder partners aims to reduce the number of animal collisions and deaths on rural roads.

It follows a high number of accidents involving free-roaming animals on Roger Penny Way and surrounding routes in the past 12 months.

Campaigners are calling for average speed cameras to be installed on Roger Penny Way. The busy commuter route has been dubbed "infamous" by the Commoners' Defence Association, which represents the owners of the Forest's free-roaming animals.

Police have staged several "days of action" under the Operation Mountie banner since November 1 last year, with officers taking enforcement action against people flouting the 40mph limit.

The latest session took place this morning at Roger Penny Way.

New Forest Heart Cops said 11 drivers were stopped. Nine received education from partner agencies and two were given tickets for driving at more than 50mph.

During the past three months 86 vehicles have been stopped for exceeding the limit. A total of 16 motorists were handed tickets for speeding and having invalid licences and 69 were educated about the dangers of speeding.

Three vehicles were seized because the drivers were either uninsured or were driving without a valid licence.

Sergeant Dave Hazlett, of Hampshire & Thames Valley Police’s Road Safety Unit, said: “Driving above the speed limit, especially during hours of darkness and in poor weather such as heavy rain or severe fog, can have devastating consequences.

"Sadly, there have been a number of animal deaths on New Forest roads as a result over the past 12 months.

"Some of these could have been avoided had motorists been travelling within the speed limit or driving appropriately for the conditions.

“Operation Mountie has engaged with several hundred motorists over the past three months, seeking to educate them on the dangers of exceeding the speed limit and taking robust enforcement action where necessary.

"This is a serious and emotive issue which has huge significance for the local community.

"We are committed to ensuring the New Forest remains a safe place for animals to roam freely, while reducing the number of serious collisions.

“We will continue to work with key partners including New Forest National Park Authority, Forestry England and Commoners' Defence Association to raise awareness of animals killed by collisions in the New Forest area and improve safety.

“A speed limit is exactly that – a limit, not a target.

"Driving to the road conditions, especially in reduced visibility, gives drivers the best chance to react to any animals in the vicinity of the road."

Charlotte Belcher, community manager for Forestry England, said: “Working with the police and Forest groups on these regular days of action means we can really effectively target motorists behaving recklessly on forest roads and educate many hundreds more.

"Anyone driving on Forest roads at this time of year needs to take special care and drive to the conditions.

"Animals can be on or near the road at any time and visibility is often poor. On unfenced roads always expect the unexpected and be prepared to stop for animals.”

Gillie Molland, lead ranger for the New Forest National Park Authority, added: “As part of The New Forest’s Animal Accident Reduction Group, it’s great to be involved in further measures on the most dangerous routes during these winter months when accidents peak.

"After talking with drivers, we’ve learned that many don’t realise animals don't have any road sense so may step out in front of you even if you think they've seen you.

"It’s also important to pass livestock slow and wide and remember in freezing or wet conditions stopping distances will be increased."