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Roadside Reflectors

RSPB Spotlight on Badgers book
James Lowen explores the lives of badgers and their communal living, feeding habits and threats to their conservation. Click here to buy:
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Being creatures of habit, badgers often patrol their territories along long-established boundaries and paths. Accordingly, one of the most dangerous areas for badgers is where their paths cross busy roads and railways.

In such locations Badger Groups have often trialled various types of roadside reflector to try and reduce the number of fatal and serious badger casualties. Reducing the number of badger casualties can have a great impact on human accidents too. Whilst the act of running over a badger in a modern car, would not generally cause the car to flip over; the actions taken by a driver to avoid hitting a badger may result in an accident. In avoiding the badger, the vehicle may swerve into the path of other traffic or crash into embankments, barriers or street furniture. Hitting a badger on a motorcycle would almost certainly result in the bike crashing; with possible serious or fatal consequences for the motor-cyclist.

If roadside reflectors may be a solution at a particular accident blackspot, the first step should be to arrange a meeting with the relevant "owner" of the road, such as the local authority's traffic management or roads department. The reason you need to consult the "officials" is that it is illegal to install roadside reflectors, unless you are permitted to do so. The benefit, is that if you persuade the officials of the need to do so; they may be willing to do the work for you. If this is the case, you can be fairly certain that the installation will be within the law and will comply with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions, and that they have informed the gas, electricity, water and telephone companies, to ensure that no interference would be caused to underground pipes or cables.

If you simply installed a solid roadside reflector without a permit, that reflector could be removed by the authorities; and you could be liable for damages if it was a contributory factor in an accident if a vehicle was damaged or some-one was injured.

The reflectors used for badgers have tended to be wooden posts about 30cm high with a dimpled reflector which reflects the vehicle lights away from the road. In doing this, it is hoped that the badgers get some advanced warning of a vehicle approaching; and therefore have a vital few extra seconds to get clear of the road. To maximize the chances of them working the reflectors should be sited at regular intervals (e.g. 15 metres); and they should be staggered along the side of the road.

Being only 30cm high, the wooden posts can soon become covered by vegetation; so they are normally surrounded by a thick layer of roofing felt which suppresses the growth of vegetation. This leaves a "dead" area around the post, which means they are less likely to be knocked over or damaged during roadside maintenance and grass-cutting operations.

However, the vegetation around the reflectors does need to kept cut very short so light can reach the reflectors and be scattered around.

In addition, as the reflectors themselves are only 30cm off the ground, they can quickly become dirty from passing traffic and needed to be cleaned regularly.

Originally roadside reflectors were designed to deter deer from remaining on the carriageway for too long; and there is some evidence that they do work for deer quite well. The case of badgers is a little more problematic; and they will be unlikely to reduce badger casualties to zero.

Again, with badger-related matters, a research study would be very useful; as it would allow different types of reflector to be tested against one another; and realistic figures obtained as to the number of accidents avoided and the number of badgers lives saved.

Overall, at known badger crossing points, where the number of casualties is high; and the number of accidents is high (or their is a risk of a catastrophic accident), we would advise that they should be trialled to test their efficiency. However, we would urge all Badger Groups to keep detailed records to make it easier for other to learn about their strengths and weaknesses.

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