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

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According to AXA’s loss figures, car drivers are highly likely to collide with a wild animal in the cantons of Jura, Graubünden and Fribourg in particular. Throughout Switzerland, the amount paid out in claims is estimated to be more than CHF 40 million. If you collide with 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. The amount paid out in claims is around CHF 9 million every year, rising to more than CHF 40 million for Switzerland as a whole. 

Wildlife vehicle collision: which cantons have the highest risk?

AXA’s loss statistics show that the likelihood of colliding with an animal differs from region to region. Car drivers should be particularly careful in the cantons of Jura, Graubünden and Fribourg, as the risk there is up to eight times higher than in other regions.  

Animal damage frequency (in per mille) 

Data source and chart: AXA (database: all wildlife vehicle collisions reported to AXA in 2018 by canton)

Be careful when driving in the morning and evening

There is always risk of a wildlife vehicle collision at any time of day and in any season. “However, drivers should be particularly careful in October, November and December. This is because when the days become shorter, it is more likely that wild animals will be out and about at the same time as car drivers. It is also dark when driving in the morning and evening, so drivers often don’t see animals on the road in time”, says Bettina Zahnd, Head of Accident Research and Prevention at AXA. In morning and evening traffic and particularly in forest sections and in areas with warning signs, drivers should therefore adjust their speed and be ready to brake at any time, advises the AXA accident researcher.

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

Bettina Zahnd, Head of Accident Research and Prevention 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 not seriously injured whenever there is a collision between a car and a wild animal, but according to the Federal Roads Office (FEDRO), 93 people were injured in accidents involving animals in 2018 compared with 78 in 2017. One person actually died in 2018. 

Report a wildlife vehicle collision to the police immediately

If a wild animal suddenly jumps in front of your car, applying the full brakes is preferable to taking any evasive action. If there is a collision however, you are legally obliged to notify the police immediately. The police will then deploy a gamekeeper, hunter or other specialists to look for the animal and if necessary, release it from its suffering. 

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’s legal expert Cyril Senn. This is because legal practice has intensified in the last few years: people used to be fined simply for wrongful conduct if they delayed reporting an accident, but today they can be prosecuted for reckless or even deliberate animal cruelty. “If an accident involving an animal isn’t reported to the police immediately, the animal may have to suffer 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. Not reporting or any delay in reporting a wildlife vehicle collision is therefore not a trivial offense”, says legal expert Cyril 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 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.


Note on insurance

  • 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.
  • Claims report Motor vehicle

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