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Accidents involving wild animals a mass phenomenon

There are over 200,000 collisions with deer and other larger wild animals on German roads every year. Although most of these accidents are not serious and are limited to damage to the vehicle’s bodywork, nevertheless 28 people died in accidents involving wild animals in 2002, for example, and 18 people died in 2014. Around 2,800 drivers a year are injured, some of them seriously.

Consequently, there has long been a discussion about the best way to prevent accidents involving wild animals. The UDV has investigated over 5,000 accidents involving wild animals in a project lasting several years and compared the statistics before and after specific measures were introduced. Recommended measures thus far have included scent fences, optical and acoustic reflectors, cutting back the hedges and bushes on the roadside and signs warning about deer and other animals crossing the road. It came as something of a surprise to find that none of these measures reduce accidents involving wild animals effectively and lastingly.

The area in which the investigation took place was Oberbergischer Kreis, part of the Bergisches Land national park in North Rhine-Westphalia. The EUSka electronic accident type map was used to analyze all of the 5,000 accidents involving wild animals recorded by the police over a nine-year period. The various methods of preventing accidents involving wild animals were tested for a period of three years each on six sections of road, and before and after comparisons were carried out. The results were compared with 37 control sections of road. The road traffic authorities, the police, representatives of the hunting community, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and the North Rhine-Westphalian ministry for economic affairs also took part in the tests.

The analysis of the accidents involving wild animals revealed the following findings:

  • The overwhelming majority of accidents involving wild animals occur between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. and between 5 p.m. and midnight, but the period between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. is quite dangerous as well, given that traffic volumes are low at that time.

  • Accidents involving wild animals happen throughout the week.

  • It was established over a number of years that accidents involving wild animals peak in May, October and November, although the differences between the months are relatively small. Care must be taken throughout the year.

  • In 80 percent of all accidents involving wild animals, the car collides with a deer. In 10 percent of cases, it collides with a wild boar.

Conclusion: Accidents involving wild animals continue to be a serious road safety problem. They can happen to any driver, regardless of experience or driving skills. None of the measures discussed and used thus far (scent fences, optical/acoustic reflectors, cutting back the hedges and bushes on the roadside or signs warning about wild animals crossing) were found to reduce the numbers of accidents effectively.

The UDV therefore makes the following recommendations for avoiding accidents with wild animals:

  • Care must be taken throughout the year, not just in the spring or fall.

  • Wild animals should be expected at dawn, dusk and, above all, at night.

  • Cars with ABS and ESC are safer.

  • The authorities should not indiscriminately put up signs warning about wild animals crossing, and the signs should not specify long distances over which the warning is applicable. Instead, they should be put up at known black spots in conjunction with speed limit signs.