Do not approach injured animals
The numbers are striking. According to statistics on accidents involving wildlife from the German Hunters’ Federation, a car collides with a wild animal approximately every 2.5 minutes in Germany. In the 2015/2016 season alone, roughly 228,550 accidents involving deer and wild boar occurred. Those accidents caused serious injuries to 3,054 people and killed 13. Property damage is estimated at €0.5 billion every year. Similarly, in many other European countries such as France, Italy and Spain, accidents involving wildlife are a regular occurrence and run into the tens of thousands. The figure across the EU is estimated at more than 500,000, with approximately 300 fatalities, 30,000 injuries and property damage of €1 billion.
In principle, such accidents can occur at any time. “However, the risk is greatest during twilight in the mornings and evenings, when animals are foraging for food,” warns Markus Egelhaaf, accident researcher at DEKRA. The risk increases as summer transitions into winter, as that is when commuter traffic begins more frequently to encounter deer and wild boar crossing roads.
“Drivers need to take extra care, especially in wooded areas, at forest edges, around fields and in areas with a lot of vegetation,” explains the expert. Road users should therefore pay all the more attention to the speeds at which they drive, keep an eye on their surroundings and always be prepared to brake when driving through these areas, particularly during the hours of dawn and dusk. These precautions will increase their own safety as well. Ultimately, the higher the speed of impact, the greater the risk of the driver being injured.
If an animal appears at the side of the road, the procedure is as follows: Slow down immediately, switch your headlights to dipped beam and sound your horn. Not only that, but also be aware that there could be other animals behind them or further along the road. If a wild animal leaps into the road, accident expert Egelhaaf recommends that you “hold the steering wheel firmly and brake hard.” The reason for this is that it is not uncommon for an evasive maneuver to result in a serious collision with oncoming traffic or a tree. That is why straight on is often the better alternative. If a collision with a wild animal was unavoidable, you should switch on your hazard lights, put on a high-visibility jacket and secure the scene of the accident – ideally in both directions. Place a warning triangle roughly 100 meters before the scene. Inform the police or the relevant game tenant immediately. If anyone has been injured, call an ambulance using the European emergency number, 112.
Under no circumstances should you approach injured animals. This is because they could lash out in pain and fear and seriously injure people. In addition, never touch deceased animals with your bare hands owing to the risk of rabies. One more thing: If you take game away with you, you are guilty of poaching and could face criminal charges.