AS I was driving home yesterday evening, a deer sprang out onto the road.

Far enough ahead to pose no danger, I had plenty of time to admire its sleek pelt and graceful leap up the verge.

But it was a very timely encounter, as last week marked Animal Road Accident Awareness Day.

A lesser known national day, it carries an important message as the nights draw in.

In Britain, annual road casualties are estimated to account for 100,000 fox deaths, 50,000 badgers, 50,000 deer, 30 million birds and even more rabbits.

As most will be unrecorded, the realistic death rate could total over 70 million.

The waste of life summed up in these numbers is hard to comprehend, not least as it includes endangered native species, such as the hedgehog.

Road deaths could be reducing by a third every year, a hedgehog population already teetering on the brink of extinction.

It’s not just rural drivers who need to be aware: distressingly, 630 UK cats are hit by cars every single day.

25% of hits will be fatal, meaning 75% have a good chance at survival if the driver seeks help straight away.

The best first point of call is simply the closest veterinary surgery, similarly for injured wildlife.

If saved, wild animals will usually then be passed to a local animal rescue centre for expert rehabilitation care- another good reason to donate to these excellent charities, if you can.

Spring is also a danger time, as frogs and toads make their annual migrations back to home ponds to breed, which risks an estimated 20 tons of romantic amphibians being squished by British traffic every year.

Luckily, these Green Cross Code dodgers can rely on champions like the zoo’s very own Toad Lollipop Man, keeper and education officer Matt Carr.

Every spring he co-ordinates volunteer ‘toad patrols’ at local migratory crossings, helping reduce deaths by an incredible 90% nationwide.

We can all do our bit by simply driving with a little more awareness- and be grateful we don’t have to contend with moose, elk and bears sharing the fast lane! I’ll write more about how you can volunteer and become involved with our Toad Patrol next year.