Drivers are being urged to stop littering roads with fruit peel and apple cores to cut deadly wildlife collisions.

Road users dropping organic matter can “lure animals into often fatal situations” where they are hit by passing vehicles, National Highways said.

A survey of 2,000 UK adults suggested 45% of people do not think biodegradable food counts as litter.

Three out of 10 (31%) respondents believed organic waste is beneficial to wildlife.

National Highways has launched a campaign supported by charities the RSPCA and Keep Britain Tidy to encourage drivers not to drop litter.

Nick Harris, National Highways chief executive, said: “Littering is a dreadful social problem. It’s not just unsightly, it can have a deadly impact on wildlife, turning verges into lethal roadside restaurants.

“We’re working hard to tackle it on our roads, with our people litter-picking every day.

“To keep them safe we have to close motorway lanes, which delays drivers and costs millions of pounds.

“But if people don’t drop litter in the first place it wouldn’t need to be picked up – so we urge road users to take their litter home.”

In the past three years, the RSPCA received more than 10,000 reports of animals found injured, trapped or dead because of litter in England and Wales.

That is an average of nearly 10 reports every day.

RSPCA lead wildlife officer Geoff Edmond said: “Our rescuers deal with thousands of incidents every year where animals have been impacted by litter.

“Old drinks cans and bottles, plastic items and even disposable vapes are just some of the items that pose a danger to our wildlife including hedgehogs, squirrels, deer and foxes.

“Animals can ingest the litter, become trapped in it or be attracted to old food on the roadside which puts them in danger of moving vehicles.”

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of Keep Britain Tidy, said: “Our roads are a graveyard for small mammals and other wildlife that is attracted to the littered food and drinks that drivers illegally chuck out of their vehicles.

“We are pleased to see National Highways launch this long-awaited campaign aimed squarely at getting motorists to do the right thing, bin their rubbish and protect these precious, highly biodiverse areas where so many animals live.”

Keep Britain Tidy research in 2018 found that up to three million animals per year die on the roadside after being trapped in litter.

– The National Highways survey was conducted by research company Walnut Unlimited in January.