The dark season has begun. Experience shows that accidents with wild animals crossing the road are increasing again. What is the best solution for drivers in such a case?
Brake, swerve or hold on? It is clear that there can be no general rule here. That’s why the police, the ADAC and the General Association of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) give an assessment.
However, wildlife accidents are only part of the question. Accidents with pets such as cats and dogs also occur, especially in urban areas, and in rural areas there could be collisions with farm animals such as chickens or even cows. When it comes to intrinsic safety, the size of the animal is always crucial. The experts agree on that.
“Larger animals can cause greater damage and may be ‘charged’ by the vehicle and enter the vehicle interior through the windshield. With heavier animals, there is a risk that the vehicle will spin out of control and possibly crash into a tree or another vehicle,” explains Dirk Oppermann for the Braunschweig Police Department.
The police advise that if you are in danger of colliding with an animal, you should brake as much as possible and generally not swerve. Particularly with small animals, the risk of hitting the person behind or the vehicle swerving on slippery roads must be taken into account.
The common opinion that “those who drive up are at fault” does not fully apply in this context. If you brake because of an animal, it could be interpreted as braking for no reason. The decisive factor is the size of the animal. “For large animals such as horses, deer, wild boars or cattle, braking is usually justified because of the expected serious consequences of an accident. With smaller animals on the road, such as rabbits, squirrels, hedgehogs, but also martens or domestic cats, braking in a car is often viewed as unfounded,” says Oppermann.
The prevailing case law is of the opinion that the danger posed by small animals to a car is so low that it would be disproportionate to accept the risk of an accident associated with braking or evasive maneuvers.
For insurance companies: animal species is more important than size
From the perspective of the insurance industry, another factor plays a role. “The size and weight of the animal obviously play an important role in the safety of the car occupants. When it comes to the question of whether partial comprehensive insurance covers the damage, it is not the size of the animal that is decisive, but the species,” explains Siegfried Brockmann, head of accident research at GDV.
Any damage would be covered by partial comprehensive insurance. It is important to pay attention to the terms and conditions of the respective insurer, as there may be different scopes of coverage – collisions with furred game, extended game damage or collisions with animals. Hairy game is defined according to the Federal Hunting Act.
The furred game included, among others, red deer, fallow deer, roe deer, wild boar, brown hare, wild rabbit, fox and marten species. The variant of extended game damage covers individually named animals in addition to furred game, such as horses, cattle, sheep and goats. “If the motor vehicle insurance contract covers collisions with animals, this represents the most comprehensive scope of cover.
Any collision between a moving vehicle and an animal (whether domestic, farm, wild or even bird) is covered,” says Brockmann.
Braking distance calculations
To prevent damage from occurring in the first place, the police advise driving with foresight and being more aware of the dangers. “The animals often cross the road, especially in forest sections and on the edges of fields. And especially in the evening and early morning hours at dusk.
Signs in this regard must be observed,” emphasizes Dirk Oppermann. If you drive carefully and carefully, a possible accident can definitely be avoided.
“From 80 km/h the braking distance becomes dangerously long. The braking distance at 80 km/h is approximately 55 meters. Assuming that we detect the game at a distance of 60 meters, the driver could come to a stop in front of the game without a collision,” calculates Oppermann.
Things look different at 100 km/h. Here the driver needs a good 80 meters to stop, so he collides with the game, which is 60 meters away in the example, at a speed of around 61 km/h. Just 10 km/h faster, the impact speed would be a good 80 km/h.
Night vision only on upper class models
But can braking ability and hazard detection be improved through modern technology in the car? While the GDV misses infrared detection of game, ideally combined with an emergency braking assistant, the ADAC has dealt intensively with this topic.
Two security systems were recently tested, reports Alexandra Kruse, Head of Public Relations & Marketing at ADAC Lower Saxony/Saxony-Anhalt. For this purpose, two vehicles (VW T-Cross and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross) with emergency braking assistants were selected and their reaction to a crossing wild boar dummy was tested.
It was also examined to what extent a night vision assistant (Peugeot 508) could help prevent accidents. Night vision systems use infrared sensors to detect heat radiation from pedestrians or animals. This allows you to give early warning or support braking. The assistant in the Peugeot 508 was convincing in the nighttime function test.
However, according to ADAC, night vision assistants have so far been offered primarily in the upper middle and upper classes – and only as expensive optional equipment. Standard installation and fleet-wide distribution are not in sight in the long term. Emergency braking assistants, on the other hand, are now mandatory for new vehicles, but have so far only been optimized to detect vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists.
But the radar sensors that are often installed could also show their particular strengths in detecting animals in darkness or fog. The result of the ADAC test: Although the assistance systems in the VW T-Cross and Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross cannot prevent an impact, in some situations a warning is issued and braking is supported.
According to the experts, the detection of wild animals should be included and integrated in the development of emergency braking assistants. Existing technology could make an important contribution to road safety.
ADAC: What to do after an accident?
But what should you do if a collision does occur?
The ADAC also provides information here. In the event of an accident involving wild animals: switch on the hazard warning lights, put on a warning vest and secure the scene of the accident. This also applies if the animal escaped injured.
If people are injured, call 112 and provide first aid. Even if there are no injuries, the police must always be contacted by calling 110.
If possible, pull the dead animal to the edge of the road to avoid further accidents. However, due to possible parasites or diseases, do not touch it with your bare hands.
You shouldn’t touch injured animals at all because they could defend themselves. The hit game must not be removed from the scene of the accident, otherwise you risk being charged with poaching.
In the case of accidents involving small animals and pets, the police should be notified if people were injured as a result of the accident, if the dead or injured animal endangers other road users because, for example, it is lying in the middle of the road or if the owner of a pet needs to be identified in order to make a claim for damages close.