Mobility

Wildlife vehicle collision: what to do and where to be careful

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According to AXA’s claims figures, car drivers are especially likely to collide with a wild animal in the cantons of Jura, Graubünden, Fribourg, and Thurgau. Throughout Switzerland, the amount paid out in claims is estimated to be more than CHF 50 million. If you hit a wild animal, you must report this to the police immediately; otherwise you risk being prosecuted for animal cruelty.

Thousands of wild animals die on the roads every year. More than 3,000 wildlife vehicle collisions are reported every year just to AXA, Switzerland’s largest motor vehicle insurer. This number was slightly lower in the past year, most likely a consequence of the pandemic-related decrease in traffic. The total amount paid out in claims is now around CHF 11 million every year, likely rising to more than CHF 50 million for Switzerland as a whole. The somewhat higher claims figure is likely due, in particular, to the ever-growing costs of replacement parts. 

Wildlife vehicle collision: which cantons have the highest risk?

AXA’s claims statistics show that the likelihood of colliding with an animal differs from region to region in Switzerland. Car drivers should be particularly careful in Jura, Graubünden, Fribourg, and Thurgau, where the risk is up to seven times higher than in other cantons. 

Animal damage frequency (in per mille) 

Data source and chart: AXA (database: all wildlife vehicle collisions reported to AXA in 2020 by canton)

Be careful when driving in the morning and evening

Wildlife vehicle collisions can essentially happen at any time of day and in any season. “However, drivers should be especially careful in October, November, and December because, as the days get shorter, wild animals are more likely to be out and about at the same time as car drivers. It’s also dark when most people are driving in the morning and evening, so drivers often don’t see animals on the road until it’s too late,” says Michael Pfäffli, Head of Accident Research at AXA. Drivers should therefore adjust their speed and be ready to brake at any time in the morning or evening – particularly in wooded areas and where there are warning signs, he advises.

«When the days become shorter, it is more likely that wild animals will be out and about at the same time as car drivers.»

Michael Pfäffli, Head of Accident Research at AXA

Collision with an animal involves a significant impact

Even at a moderate speed, colliding with an animal can create a considerable impact. Most people are unhurt when their car hits a wild animal, but the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO) notes that 89 people were injured in accidents involving animals last year, and 76 in 2019.

Report a wildlife vehicle collision to the police immediately

If a wild animal does suddenly leap out in front of your car, it is better to brake hard than to try avoiding it. If you do hit it, you are required by law to notify the police immediately. The police will then call in a gamekeeper, hunter, or other specialist to look for the animal and, if necessary, put it out of its misery. 

Delay in reporting an accident is not a trivial offense

“Anyone who doesn’t report an accident to the police immediately or only does so at the insurance company’s request is liable to be prosecuted for animal cruelty,” says AXA-ARAG legal expert Cyril Senn. There has been a trend toward applying the law more strictly in the past few years: people used to be fined simply for violation of duty if they delayed reporting an accident, but these days they may be prosecuted for negligent or even deliberate animal cruelty. “If an accident involving an animal isn’t reported to the police immediately, the animal may end up suffering from its injuries for hours. That would be a breach of the Animal Welfare Act, potentially resulting in prosecution for animal cruelty and a criminal record. That’s why failing to report a wildlife vehicle collision or only reporting it after the fact for insurance purposes isn’t seen as a trivial offense,” says Senn.

Tips from AXA Accident Research & Prevention on avoiding wildlife vehicle collisions

  • Take wildlife crossing signs seriously to protect wild animals and yourself against accidents.
  • Pay particular attention to driving carefully on country roads and in forest areas. Reduce your speed, leave a greater clearance margin in front and keep a look-out at the edge of forests and fields.
  • Turn on your high-beam headlights if possible so that wild animals can see you as soon as possible.
  • As soon as you see a wild animal at the edge of the road, brake immediately, dim your lights and if the animal doesn’t move away, honk your horn. In doing so, be mindful of traffic behind you.
  • Be prepared for more wild animals in the same place, as animals often roam around together in herds. This means that if there is one animal, there are also others, so as soon as the lead animal flees, the herd will nearly always follow.
  • If a wild animal suddenly jumps in front of your car, applying the full brakes is the best solution thanks to ABS, even on slippery roads. This can reduce energy to minimize the impact of any subsequent collision. Drivers should avoid any sharp swerving maneuvers. 
     

What should I do if I collide with a wild animal?

  • Stop the car and secure the accident site (warning lights, warning triangle).
  • Inform the police immediately (tel. 117): in Switzerland, wildlife vehicle collisions must be reported by law. If necessary, the police will call in other specialists (gamekeeper, hunter, vet). 
  • Wait for the police and do not try to approach the animal.

 

Do you need to report damage to your car? 

  • If your car has been damaged, AXA will take care of the whole claim settlement process, it will organize the repairs for you and it will ensure you remain mobile. In addition, your policy enables you to benefit from exclusive advantages from our partner companies. Report your claim quickly and simply at myAXA, at AXA.ch or by calling 0800 809 809.
  • Damage to a vehicle is covered if the driver has partial or comprehensive accidental damage insurance and the accident has been recorded by the police.

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