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.
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)
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.»
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.
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.
“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.