From warm summer evenings to misty autumn mornings, there’s always something new and beautiful to experience on the UK’s roads. Particularly when it comes to our stunning variety of wildlife. Unfortunately, the UK’s natural abundance means that sometimes accidents happen involving these animals. If the worst should occur and you hit an animal with your campervan, would you know what to do? If you’re at all unsure then read this Motorhome Protect guide and get prepared now.
Throughout the seasons touring in your beloved campervan will leave you wondering why anyone would holiday anywhere else! However, spending so long driving can present a variety of risks for even the most experienced campervan tourer.
A key part of any pre-travel plans is to check you’ve the right campervan insurance for your needs. The helpful team at Motorhome Protect are always on hand to help you with this at any time of year.
How many animals are killed on UK roads?
Unfortunately, while our landscape is full of stunning creatures, the squashed and sorry sight of an animal on the roadside is an all too common one in the UK. Every year many thousands of animals such as badgers, pheasants and hedgehogs, are run over and killed on UK roads. According to figures from the team of ‘citizen scientists’ at UK wide roadkill research project Project Splatter this is a big problem.
While most deaths are reported on hotspot roads such as the A1 (the UK’s longest road) and the M6 (the UK’s longest motorway), it’s believed the real figures are much higher as most deaths go unreported.
In 2021, Project Splatter found the most commonly reported mammals were badgers, followed by hedgehogs, grey squirrels, foxes and rabbits. In terms of birds, pheasants were by far the most reported, followed by wood pigeons, blackbirds, feral pigeons and magpies.
It certainly seems that in terms of total numbers, July and August are the months where you’re most likely to hit an animal on a UK road. Although that does change depending on the species, and there can be particular peaks in the spring and autumn.
For example, the month of May is considered the peak month for deer road casualties as young deer are pushed to find new home territories. But October through to December is also busy. Researchers from the universities of Exeter and Cardiff have found that pheasant deaths peak in autumn and late winter.
Even on routes you regularly take, it’s important to take extra care at certain times of year and times of day. The period from sunset to midnight and just before and after sunrise can be particularly hazardous.
To give an indication of the extent to which reported deaths underestimate the real number, for 2021, 864 badger deaths were reported to Project Splatter. However, the Badger Trust estimates the true number of badgers run over and killed each year is more than 50,000. That equates to around a fifth of the adult population!
While 762 hedgehog deaths were reported to Project Splatter in 2021, a study by Nottingham Trent University in 2020 estimated as many as 335,000 hedgehogs could be dying on UK roads every year! These are all shocking figures indeed.
If you want to help track and protect the UK’s hedgehog population, download Mammal.org.uk’s Mammal Mapper app now and record sightings when you’re out and about.
What to do if you hit an animal with your campervan
Despite the worrying figures, hitting an animal with your campervan is a comparatively rare event. However, it can naturally be very stressful. If you’re wondering what to do if you find yourself in this situation then read on for our advice. From what to do immediately after the incident to who to call afterwards, we’ve got it covered.
If you hit an animal with your campervan, do the following:
- Stay calm and turn your hazard lights on. This is to alert other road users to the potential hazard in the road.
- Stop the campervan in a safe place. Do not endanger yourself or other road users by pulling over in an unsafe spot.
- Switch off the engine and check yourself and any passengers for injuries. Making sure they’re OK has to be your first priority. Hitting a large animal such as a deer can result in significant damage to vehicles and even occupants. Call an ambulance if necessary.
- If you’ve hit certain species of animals it’s then your legal responsibility to inform the police. These include dogs, horses, cattle, pigs, goats, sheep, donkeys and mules. Whether or not the animal has been killed, you must do this as quickly as you can. Indeed, it’s a criminal offence if you fail to report such an incident.
Giving a precise location for the dead or injured animal is important. Many drivers and emergency services use the What3Words app for this.
Whether or not you’re required to report the incident to the police, you’ll now want to check on the condition of the animal.
Making sure to keep a safe distance, watch to see if the animal is injured. If you think it might be, then contact one of the following organisations:
- If you’re in England and Wales then call the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999
- If you’re in Scotland then call the SSPCA on 03000 999 999
- If you’re in Northern Ireland then call the USPCA on 028 3025 1000
Always be very cautious if approaching an injured animal. If they’re hurt or frightened then they might become aggressive. Indeed, approaching the animal may cause it to flee across traffic and cause another accident. Never put yourself or others in danger. And be aware that wild animals can carry fleas, ticks and other diseases.
Wait for the police and/or animal charity to arrive. Injured animals need specialist care so it’s important to wait for someone to arrive who’s trained to deal with such situations.
In some circumstances, (for example, you’ve hit a pet cat) you might choose to take an animal to a local vet yourself. If you decide to do so, then you’ll need to have it in a secure box or carrier in your campervan. Unsecured animals could cause an accident and even invalidate your campervan insurance if they caused you to have an accident. Many vets won’t charge to treat an injured animal if they’re not your pet.
You’re not legally required to report hitting animals that aren’t on the government list. But you could help to save the life of a badger, fox or other small animal if you report the incident to the RSPCA, SSPCA or USPCA.
You might be surprised to learn that if you hit a pet cat, you don’t legally have to report the collision. But how would it make you feel if it was your beloved pet?
If you find yourself in this unhappy position, then first check your immediate surroundings to see if the owner is nearby. If they’re near the scene of the accident they may be distressed, so try to stay calm and give them your details.
However, if it’s not obvious who the owner is, try looking for contact details on the animal’s collar. A local animal rescue or vet might be able to check the animal for a microchip and find the owner that way. Wrap the animal in a blanket to protect both of you if you do attempt to move it.
What about telling your campervan insurance provider?
While hitting an animal is distressing, it’s also important you tell your campervan insurance provider as soon as you can. They’ll want the details to be able to cover the cost of any damage to your cherished camper.
Even if you don’t plan on making a claim, it’s still wise to log such an incident. After all, if you’ve hit a farm animal or pet dog then the owner might say you were at fault and seek to make an insurance claim against you.
For this reason, it’s always best to gather as much evidence from the scene of the accident as possible. For example, make a note of the scene including weather and road conditions. Back up any dash cam recordings, take photos of the accident and the surroundings.
Pay close attention to any holes in fences, or gates left unsecured. While your insurer may decide the animal’s owner was at fault, it’s always better to be prepared.
You could also speak to any witnesses and get their details. But never put yourself in danger while gathering evidence.
What to do if you find an animal dead on the road
Driving a campervan can take you to some wild and out of the way places. But if you find an animal dead on the road the government advises drivers to always make a report to the local council. Whether it’s a wild animal such as a badger or fox, or a domestic pet such as a cat or dog.
Move the body to the side of the road to prevent obstruction and further accidents if you wish to, and it’s safe to do so. Taking care that wild animals may have diseases or other parasites.
If you think an animal has been poisoned by pesticides then call the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme on 0800 321 600.
As discussed previously, there are a number of organisations looking for more data on animals killed on UK roads. For example, if you’re regularly spotting roadkill on your campervan tours then download the Project Splatter app (suitable for iOS and Android) to report it on the go!
There are also organisations looking for information on specific species. For example, the British Deer Society is desperate for more people to help them track road collisions. This is to help them understand not only the scale of the problem but also any factors involved. It also lets them spot hotspots where traffic improvements could be made. One of the ways you can do this is to report a collision through the BDS Deer app (suitable for iOS and Android).
Remember, it isn’t just the animal that’s been killed that could need help. The Badger Trust asks people to check on badgers to confirm if they’re dead, and also to see if it’s a sow (female) and lactating. If it is then there may be cubs nearby that need help. And this information can be acted on by the local badger group. You can find your local group on the Badger Society map.
Just imagine the good you could do while driving around the countryside in your campervan. If you want to be of even more use for such organisations then consider volunteering as part of your next break. There are plenty of volunteering opportunities for nature lovers throughout the UK. Have a look at this handy guide and see if it might be right for you!
How to avoid hitting an animal with your campervan in the first place
Now you know what to do if you hit an animal, how can you prevent this from even happening? While nothing will make it impossible for you to hit an animal, there are a few changes you can make to reduce the chances.
- Look out for warning signs
The traffic authorities are keen to avoid any collisions between animals and other road users. Not only because of animal welfare and road safety but also because such collisions cause disruption to the road network. So, if there is a chance of encountering animals on the road then you may well see road signs warning you of that.
While cattle, deer and horses are the most usually spotted road signs, you might also encounter signs featuring toads, squirrels, ducks and other common British creatures. Announced in 2019, the most recent animal to feature on road signs is the hedgehog. Why not keep an eye out on your next trip? It might even make a good game for younger travellers to play!
- Beware during peak danger periods
Deer and many other creatures are a common sight on British roads, with miles of tarmac cutting through their native habitats. Stay aware, particularly on rural roads around dawn and dusk. There are also particular times of the year when certain species are most likely to be crossing roads.
For example, the months of March to May and September to November are particularly risky for badgers. In Spring, cubs emerge while in Autumn badgers roam further for food and mating opportunities. You’d do well to pay particular attention to those ‘Badger crossing’ signs when travelling during these periods.
- Slow down and drive with caution
‘Give Badgers a Brake’ is a great campaign slogan applicable to all creatures. By ensuring you stick within the speed limits and your speed matches the conditions you’ll drastically reduce the chance of hitting an animal. No matter where or when you’re driving. For example, when driving in residential areas dogs may be off their leads near parks and cats could dart across the road at any time. Checking your speed will give you the best chance of reacting in time to avoid a tragedy.
- Seen one animal? Look out for another
If you see one deer or fox then chances are there could be others close by. Depending on the time of year there could even be young nearby who don’t understand the dangers of roads. Spotting one animal in time should alert you to the presence of others.
- Use lights at night
At night, particularly on rural roads, your headlights and the noise of your campervan should let most animals know that they need to take extra care. However, if your lights are on full-beam and you spot an animal on the road ahead, then dim your lights. Animals surprised by the beam may freeze rather than getting out of the way.
- Keep your distance
We all know that keeping an appropriate distance from vehicles in front is sensible. But it’s particularly important in areas where animals are common. If the driver ahead brakes or swerves suddenly to avoid an animal then you’ll want to be prepared. A bit of distance could make the difference between an accident-free journey and a nasty smash.
- Don’t veer
Slamming on the brakes or swerving out of your lane to avoid an animal is a natural reaction. But if it causes you to hit other road users, then you may be found to be at fault for the accident.
Travelling with pets
Many campervan owners love to take their dog on their campervan holiday. This can be part of an unforgettable holiday adventure but does require some planning. Read this handy online guide to taking a dog on your next campervan break. It’s packed full of information on dog-friendly campsites, pet passports if you’re heading abroad, how to keep your dog safe, and plenty of other travel tips.
If you’re planning on a foreign break then make sure you’ve got campervan insurance to cover you in any eventuality. One of the many benefits of campervan insurance from Motorhome Protect is that it can cover you for travel within the EU.
Make sure you’ve the right campervan insurance in place
Whether or not you’re off on a weekend wildlife spotting adventure, setting off in your campervan without the right insurance is a recipe for a disaster. It really doesn’t matter how well prepared you think you are for your outdoor adventure. Campervan insurance gives you that extra protection against theft, damage, accidents and so much more.
Benefits of cover arranged through Motorhome Protect include:
- Cover for up to 365 days a year which can include foreign use
- Cover for your campervan while you’re converting it
- Enhanced cover for personal effects
- Discounts if you’re a member of a campervan club
- Up to £3,500 of cover for your camping personal effects
- Up to six months cover to complete a self-build conversion
Get a quick quote for campervan insurance today.
Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.
Frequently asked questions
Am I liable if I have an accident when trying to avoid an animal?
The answer can be complex and varies based on local traffic laws, insurance policies, and the specific incident circumstances. If you swerve to avoid hitting a squirrel and end up hitting a lamppost, for instance, you could potentially be held responsible for the accident. It's because you're expected to maintain control of your vehicle at all times. However, the laws are not always cut and dried, and each situation can yield different results. Always consult with a legal adviser for more accurate information.
Should I call the police if I hit an animal with a vehicle?
If the animal is a pet or livestock, it's crucial to report the incident to local law enforcement, as these animals are considered property. Similarly, for larger wildlife such as deer or bears, reporting can help alert animal control or conservation officers who can provide necessary aid. However, for smaller wildlife, it may not be required.
How to feel better if I accidentally hit an animal with my vehicle?
It's always a dreadful feeling if you accidentally hit an animal with your vehicle. The guilt and sadness can be overwhelming. However, it's important to remember that accidents happen and it doesn't make you a bad person. To feel better, consider taking immediate action where possible; stop and check the animal's condition, call for veterinary help or notify animal control. You can also contribute to animal welfare organizations or participate in road safety campaigns to prevent such incidents in the future. This allows you to channel your guilt into something positive, not just for you, but for the betterment of our furry friends too.