Rise in staycations sparked an increase in wildlife deaths on UK roads

Insurance claims data suggests there has been a sharp rise in drivers colliding with wildlife compared to records from before the pandemic, which could be the result of more people staycationing in Britain. 

The number of animals hit by vehicles between June and August this year jumped 54 per cent compared to the same months in 2019, according to insurer, Zurich.

It says that the average cost of repairing a car following an insurance claim for damage caused when hitting an animal is £2,400 – though it has also resulted in vehicles being written off entirely.

Has a rise in staycations sparked an increase in wildlife deaths? Zurich says motor insurance claims for damage to vehicles caused by animals has risen in 2021, with deer most likely hit 

According to Zurich’s data, vehicle accidents involving animals plummeted by a quarter (25 per cent) in 2020, with lockdowns sparking a massive decline in traffic levels across the country.

However, since restrictions have been eased – and lifted almost entirely by the summer – incidents recorded between January and September increased 38 per cent against the same period in 2020, and 11 per cent on 2019.

Phil Ost, Zurich’s head of personal lines, said the decline in overseas travel has had a ‘knock-on impact’ for Britain’s wildlife. 

‘With more of us holidaying on home soil, and higher traffic volumes on the roads, the risk of hitting an animal has increased,’ he explained.

‘Summer saw a significant spike in animals killed or injured as more holidaymakers ventured into rural areas and other beauty spots. 

‘Animals could also have grown used to quieter roads during lockdown, contributing to the increase.

Wildlife most likely to be hit by vehicles on UK roads 

1. Deer – 61% of claims

2. Pheasants – 11%

3. Badgers – 8%

4. Birds – 7%

5. Foxes – 5%

Other animals (incl rabbits, horses and dogs) – 8%

 Source: Zurich

‘Collisions with animals now exceed pre-pandemic levels, and with ongoing uncertainty about overseas travel, this could be a trend we see continue into next year.’ 

Based on accidents that result in insurance claims alone, Zurich estimates 88 animals a day are struck by vehicles across Britain’s highways – equivalent to almost 32,000 every year. Though the true number is likely to be considerably higher.

Zurich calculates the insurance industry pays out £63.8million a year to help customers repair damage to vehicles caused by animal accidents. 

The average cost of damage is £2,400, with claims ranging from small dents and cracked windscreens, to total vehicle write-offs.

Insurance claims figures show motorists are at greatest risk of hitting a deer, making up 61 per cent of collision claims. 

These are followed by pheasants (11 per cent), badgers (8 per cent), birds (7 per cent) and foxes (5 per cent). 

Other animals (8 per cent) responsible for claims include rabbits, horses and dogs.

Pheasants account for 11% of wildlife-related accident damage claims made by drivers in 2021, the insurer says

Pheasants account for 11% of wildlife-related accident damage claims made by drivers in 2021, the insurer says

According to Zurich’s data, the highest number of animal road casualties are recorded in October.

Ost added: ‘October and November can be particularly dangerous for deer, who are more likely to stray onto highways during these months, and this in turn creates more risk to humans.

‘Be extra vigilant driving near forested areas, especially at dawn and dusk when deer are more active. Keep a lookout for road warning signs that indicate animals are nearby and, when safe to do so, use full beams at night to increase visibility on the road.’

What motorists should do if they hit an animal in the road?

• Under the Road Traffic Act, motorists involved in accidents with a dog or farm animal must report it to the police.

• If you hit a large animal – such as a deer – and it’s obstructing the road, report it to the police

• Call the RSPCA’s 24-hour emergency line (0300 1234 999) if the animal is injured. Be cautious approaching an injured animal, as it might scratch or bite

• If your car is damaged, record the evidence, seek details from any witnesses, and report it to your insurer

He also sent a specific warning to electric vehicle drivers to take extra caution, as the lack of engine noise is likely giving animals less time to react to them approaching.

And the insurer pointed out that animal collisions are as much a danger to humans as wildlife. 

According to the British Deer Society, ‘several people’ are killed on roads each year after hitting deer.

Zurich has even made free counselling available to motorists involved in crashes with animals.

Under its claims support, customers and their immediate family members aged over 18 can access five free counselling sessions with a qualified mental health specialist. 

The service is available across all claims submitted by Zurich customers, from victims of theft to flooding.

Ost said: ‘Being involved in a collision with an animal – especially larger ones – can be a traumatic experience, and also result in serious injuries for motorists and their passengers. 

‘Our free counselling service is there for anyone who wants extra support.’


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