Autumn is just around the corner and with it the risk of a wildlife accident increases. It happens especially at dusk: suddenly a wild animal stands in front of the car on the road. This is a very dangerous situation that often ends in a collision. In autumn, the risk of such wildlife accidents increases again, warns GTÜ Gesellschaft für Technische Überwachung mbH.

For one thing, it gets light later than in summer, and for another, wild animals change their feeding grounds more frequently.

However, the risk can be reduced by driving with foresight, emphasises the testing organisation. This includes, above all, an adapted speed in areas with forests and densely overgrown fields. Often, known danger zones are marked with an appropriate warning sign - here you should be especially careful in the dark and at dawn and dusk. After all, only about 25 percent of all wildlife accidents occur during the day. In addition to the autumn months, there is also an increased risk in the period from April to May.

According to the German Hunting Association (DJV), there are around 250,000 accidents involving game every year in the Federal Republic of Germany. By far the most of these are caused by deer - the DJV lists almost 200,000 such collisions per year in its latest statistics, with the main focus on North Rhine-Westphalia. Accidents with wild boars occur a good 30,000 times a year, with Hesse leading the field in terms of the number of cases. In Germany, accidents involving fallow deer (a good 4,500 times a year) and red deer (a good 3,000 times a year) are comparatively rare. This picture is also confirmed by the association's so-called animal cadastre, the results of which were presented by the DJV this year for the period from April 2018 to February 2021. Here, deer account for around 50 percent of all cases, followed by hares, foxes and wild boars.

The German Insurance Association (GDV) assumes an even higher number. For 2019, it cites almost 300,000 accidents involving wild animals in road traffic that were reported to comprehensive insurance companies - this corresponds to an annual average of about 800 accidents per day. The costs for German car insurers were around 885 million euros in 2019 - 17 per cent more than in 2018 and an average of just under 3,000 euros per accident. In most cases, the replacement of body parts was necessary. An important tip from the GTÜ: If you want to be on the safe side when estimating the amount of damage, you can contact the experts of the testing organisation for an expert opinion.

In the event of a collision with wild animals, partial cover insurance will compensate for damage to the vehicle if it involves furred game such as deer, wild boar, stags, foxes or hares. Some insurers also offer cover for accidents with all animals - including feathered game and pets. Here, the respective policy details are decisive.

The correct behaviour in the event of an encounter with wild animals in road traffic: If you recognise a wild animal on the side of the road in the headlights, you should immediately reduce your speed further. This is because the animals are often travelling in groups - you should also watch out for stragglers. If there are animals on the road, you should not attempt any evasive manoeuvres, but brake fully and stay in your lane. Honking and, if necessary, dipping your headlights can help to persuade the animal to flee.

If an accident does occur, motorists must observe a number of rules. Switch on the hazard warning lights on the vehicle, then secure the accident site with the warning triangle while wearing a high-visibility waistcoat. If there are injured people in the car, call 112 to alert the emergency services and at the same time initiate first aid measures. In principle, the police should be informed in the event of a wildlife accident. They also report the accident to the responsible hunter, hunting leaseholder or forester. The German Hunting Association advises motorists to obtain a wildlife accident certificate from them for insurance purposes.

Efforts are being made to protect wild animals from accidents with motor vehicles. Experts rely, for example, on temporary speed limits or warning apps. Protective fences are considered effective, but they are costly and should ideally be linked to green bridges for habitat connectivity.

The wildlife warning reflectors at the roadside, on the other hand, which have been used for more than 50 years, have no measurable effect. This has been shown by two research projects of the Forest Research Institute Baden-Württemberg (FVA). However, after an accident, visually conspicuous wildlife accident signs (WUZ) are often used by the police to mark the scene of the accident. This makes it easier for the hunter to find the injured game as quickly as possible afterwards. Such WUZs can take the form of luminescent posts or reflective tapes.