The starter activity at our recent Observer’s Training Evening was to challenge observers to name the creatures which feature on triangular warning signs. (How many of the six creatures in Know your traffic signs, pages 14-15, can you name?)
One example is the migratory toads crossing sign. I didn’t realise that local councils only display this sign at appropriate times of the year (thanks to Martin for that). So I went home and did some research.
The European Common Toad is found throughout the country, while the Natterjack is found in north-west and southern England. Common toads are very particular about where they breed and often migrate back to their ancestral breeding ponds each year. They follow the same route, regardless of what gets in their way, which sometimes leads to them crossing roads.
Global warming has led to a change in their breeding and migrating patterns and this forced the Department for Transport into a rethink on the rules which govern temporary road signs. As the law stood before 2009, councils could only put up ‘migratory toad crossing’ signs between February and May.
Because of changes in our climate, toads are breeding and migrating earlier in the year. So the DfT announced in 2009 that these signs will go up in January, giving the toad – officially a ‘biodiversity priority species’ – an extra month’s protection.
It is estimated that there are around eight million toads in Britain, rather fewer than there were just after the Second World War. It’s also estimated that 20 tonnes of toads are killed on the UK’s roads every year.
In a Telegraph article Edmund King, the AA’s President said: ‘To be honest I have always wondered what drivers are supposed to do if they see amphibians in the road in front of them.’ Amphibian and Reptile Conservation advise the following:
- Slow down carefully and, if possible, drive safely around toads. (I’d never thought of that.)
- Note your location, the approximate number of creatures and, if possible, the direction the toads are moving and report this to Amphibian and Reptile Conservation – they map (through Google Earth) where crossings occur, support the process of sign erection and in some places help coordinate volunteer ‘Toad Patrols’.
For more information including details on migratory toad crossings near you see froglife.org.
FOLLOW MY LEADER, OR SEE MY WAY?
My daily commute is a pleasant rural drive, but it coincides with school buses taking students to and from towns in the High Peak.
When I was a child and travelled to school by bus, we purchased bus passes. This allowed us to board quickly so the bus held up the traffic only briefly, even when collecting a full load. I have noticed that the school buses I follow now take for ever to pick up their passengers. With only one child boarding I would expect the bus to be away promptly. But no. We sit. And wait.
I’ve no idea why boarding takes so long but there is a consequence.
Motorists get impatient and overtake the bus, blindly following one another without any regard to oncoming traffic. It can be difficult to see if there is an oncoming vehicle (the yellow car in my graphic) especially if one of the overtaking vehicles is a van. Even so, drivers just plough on regardless and oncoming traffic is confronted and has to give way.
If you hold back behind the bus to check if it is safe to overtake rather than following the procession, traffic following you is likely to get impatient. Even so, this is what I usually do If I can’t see. I won’t cross the centre line unless I can see it is safe to do so.
Do you know why the bus drivers take so long to pick up their passengers? Do write in and tell me….