The number of car collisions with forest animals takes place in autumn
October is traditionally the month when the number of car collisions with forest animals increases with the onset of autumn darkness, according to the claims data of the insurance company ERGO KASKO. The majority of accidents occur when running into deer, and the average compensation for car damage this year is around 2,250 euros, and the highest is 18,300 euros after a collision with a moose.
In autumn, the new generation of many forest animals - foxes, raccoons, badgers - becomes independent and learns the school of life, including moving across roads in search of food. In addition, young deer and elk continue to rut in October, when the animals are more chaotic and careless. These reasons, combined with dark weather and poor visibility, increase the number of road accidents involving forest animals. It continues to increase during the winter months, reaching a peak in December and January.
"We receive almost 300 CASKO compensation applications for car collisions with forest animals per year, and this year will not be an exception either. The amount of damage caused in accidents and the severity of car damage is directly related to the size of the animal. Namely, collisions with deer and moose happen less often, but are more dangerous - cars tend to be written off after such accidents. If after a collision with a deer, the average KASKO compensation is around 2,000 euros, then in the case of moose and deer, the average losses are twice as high - around 4,000 euros," explains Raitis Čaklis, director of ERGO's Risk Underwriting Department.
He adds that the situations on the road are extremely different and even the appearance of a small animal on the road can cause serious consequences. "The driver, trying to avoid a collision with an animal, must assess whether rapid maneuvers will cause more damage. So that it does not happen that, fearing to run over a rabbit, the car crashes into a tree or an oncoming car. If the animal is small, colliding with it can be the safest solution," emphasizes R. Čaklis.
Vilnis Skuja, a zoologist and senior expert of the Nature Protection Board, explains that in autumn and winter, during darkness, when visibility is the worst, animals are most active: "Especially at the beginning and end of the night - towards the morning. Therefore, drivers should be especially attentive in the dark, because during the day the animals move less and are easier to spot."
According to his observations, forest animals can be found more often on the roads of North Kurzeme. "There, the population of forest animals is much denser than, for example, in Latgale. Talsi, Ugāle, Ventspils, the road along the sea to Kolka - these are the most dangerous regions. There are also many deer and game animals on the Liepāja side. From feeding areas (fields) they move to places where they sleep during the day (forests) and vice versa. Locals often know these crossing points, but passers-by just have to be careful and follow the road sign warnings."
On the other hand, in winter, ungulates - deer, moose, roe deer - come to the roads to lick the salt spread there, creating an additional danger. As V. Skuja explains, these animals are herbivores, therefore there is a salt deficiency in their body, which they try to compensate by looking for salt on the roads. Also, forest animals are attracted by apples, which people often dump on the edges of the forest, while foxes tend to feast on run-over animals on the sides of ditches - these food finds pose an even greater threat to traffic safety.
The zoologist also explains that most forest animals have a reflector behind the retina that reflects light. Therefore, if an animal stands on the side of the road and looks at the car lights, an observant driver will notice the eyes shining in the dark. "It is more dangerous if the animal looks in the direction of the light, not at the car. Then we can approach it without noticing, because the light does not shine in his eyes - we only see the back of his head. At that moment, the animal hears a roar, gets scared, loses control and can run across the road. Therefore, in places where there are many animals, you should drive more slowly and look at the sides of the road."
To avoid or not to avoid?
Jānis Vanks, director of the "Safe Driving School", reminds drivers of the main principles that drivers should follow so that the appearance of a forest animal on the road poses as little danger to traffic as possible.
• First and foremost: reduce your speed when you see an animal, but be careful when braking. If another car is driving behind us at a short distance, we must assess whether we can brake quickly so that the rear ones do not hit our car. If there is no one behind you, you must brake as fast as possible. Even if contact with an animal is unavoidable, it will have less consequences at lower speeds.
• The driver's behavior must be different depending on the size of the animal that runs out in front. If the size of the beast is below the hood line, unfortunately you have to drive on top of it, avoiding sharp maneuvers that can endanger both yourself and the cars around you. This will be the safest option. If the animal is larger, try to avoid it.
• When making a decision to avoid a collision with an animal, the best way and direction to do so must be evaluated as quickly, within milliseconds. If there are oncoming cars, you should not steer into the opposite lane. If the road is clear, we can do it, but we have to get back into our lane as soon as possible. It should be noted that when performing sharp maneuvers at high speed, the machine may slip and become unmanageable. A well-prepared driver will deal with it by preventively correcting the skid, but an inexperienced driver can create even bigger problems for himself. Such maneuvers will be more successfully handled by people who have completed basic safe driving training and know how the car behaves when braking, what happens with the ABS - they are not afraid that the ABS "presses" the pedal.
• If one animal has run across the road, you should be very careful when driving, because others may follow - forest animals often move in packs.
• When driving in the dark, high beams should be used whenever possible. It is important that the lights are well adjusted, all the bulbs work, the light glasses are not fogged or worn. You should also take care of good visibility through the front window - so that there are high-quality wipers during rain. If there are bright screens in the car cabin, it is better to turn them off or reduce the brightness of the screens in the dark. Dimming the cabin light will help the driver see the situation outside better.
• If a collision has occurred, the State Forest Service must report the downed animal - this can be done in the "Mednis". If the car is seriously damaged or people are injured, the incident must be reported to the State Police. If the accident was minor and no one except the animal was injured, only the State Forestry Service should be notified.
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