- New data reveals how England accounted for 68% of all reported roadkill incidents.
- The animals most likely to be hit by drivers were deer, badgers and foxes. Domestic animals like cats and dogs were also high on the list, accounting for 591 reports in total.
- Over 1 in 3 (36%) UK drivers say they’ve hit an animal while driving in the past. But only 1 in 7 (15%) have reported it.
- And hitting an animal could cost more than you might think. On average, roadkill is costing motorists £291 for damages to their vehicle.
- Louise Thomas, motor expert at Confused.com car insurance explains what drivers should do if they hit an animal when behind the wheel.
More animals were killed on the M5 motorway than any other road in the UK last year, new data reveals.
Since 2022, there were 5,976 roadkill reports across England, Scotland and Wales(1). But the M5, which stretches 162m miles from West Bromwich to Exeter, accounted for 345 (6%) on its own. This makes it the most notorious road for roadkill incidents by vehicles across all 3 countries.
The data was obtained by Confused.com through a Freedom of Information request to Highways England, Transport Scotland and Transport Wales. The request asked each authority to state the number of dead animals found on roads between January 2022 and June 2023.
In England, the total number of animals reported dead to Highways England was 4,122. This makes up 68% of all roadkill reports in comparison to Scotland and Wales. In Scotland, there were 1,521 reports of dead animals, while Wales accounted for 333. But although England may seem the most notorious, its drivers in Scotland that could be most likely to hit an animal when driving. That’s as Scotland has around 2.5 million registered vehicles(2), so around 1 animal is hit every 1,600 cars. In Wales, this is 1 animal in every 4,800 cars. And with around 28 million cars in England, 1 animal is hit in every 6,800 cars.
When looking at the particular roads that had the most reports, those topping the list were all found in England. In particular, the M1 and M6 had 282 and 273 reports, respectively.
In Scotland, the M9 was the worst for roadkill with reports showing 162 animals were found dead on this road last year. But in Wales, figures were much lower. The worst road in Wales was the A55, most famously known as the North Wales Expressway, which had 105 reports.
When looking at the types of animals that are most common to be killed on roads, deer topped the list. Since 2022, there have been 1,924 reports of deer being killed. This was most common in England, with 1,084 reports. In Scotland, 820 were reported and in Wales, just 20. Badgers were second most commonly reported, with 846 reports in total, followed by foxes with 846 reports. Domestic animals were also among some of the most killed animals. That’s as 382 cats were reported dead last year and 209 dogs. This accounts for almost 10% of the overall figures. The totals for domestic animals may be surprising for some, as they may expect to see higher roadkill numbers in residential areas. But the data collected from the Highways agencies primarily look after motorways and other large roads. This could be a reason why some reported animals are bigger than others.
And further research gathered by Confused.com backs this theory. The latest data suggests that there could be many other animals that actually top the list instead. In a recent survey of 2,000 drivers, 1 in 3 (36%) admit to previously hitting an animal when driving. And when asked which animal they hit, the most common answers were:
- Birds (35%)
- Pheasants (23%)
- Rabbits (21%)
- Cats (15%)
- Dogs (12%)
The difference in findings could be surprising, but this could be down to the legalities around reporting roadkill.
The UK law states that drivers have a legal obligation(3) to call the police if they hit the following when driving:
- Donkeys and mules
For animals like badgers, foxes and otters, they should be reported to the council rather than the police. But for other animals, such as cats and birds, these don’t need to be legally reported. This could be why data reports for these animals are lower than expected. Although no matter the animal, it’s still recommended to report any that are hit when on the road. This is because they could cause obstruction and danger to other drivers.
But rules around reporting roadkill seems to be a confusing matter for drivers. That's as almost 9 in 10 (87%) drivers admitted to not reporting an animal after they’d hit it with their car. When asked why, more than half (52%) said they either thought or knew that they didn’t have to report it. But almost 1 in 5 (17%) said they either didn’t know how to report it, or they weren’t aware that they had to report that type of animal. A further quarter (26%) said they weren’t sure what to do if they hit an animal. So it’s clear that there’s some confusion among motorists around the best action to take.
Although the M5 motorway was the most common road for roadkill based on reports, it seems country roads are actually the most notorious for collisions. That’s as almost 7 in 10 (68%) drivers said they’d come into contact with an animal on a country road or residential area (26%). But these types of roads are also where animals such as birds, pheasants and domesticated pets are most likely found. And although country and residential roads could be most common for roadkill accidents, they could also be seen as less of an obstruction than motorways. So this could be the reason why roadkills are less likely reported on these types of roads.
But one thing that all roadkill incidents have in common is that the end result could be pricey. That’s as 1 in 5 (20%) drivers said their vehicle has been damaged after hitting an animal. And this left them out of pocket by £291, on average.
Hitting an animal when driving isn’t pleasant. And while it might feel like a sensible idea to swerve when danger is in sight, it’s not always possible. And 2 in 5 (44%) admitted that they wouldn’t swerve for an animal if it put other road users at risk. But that’s up for debate, as around 3 in 10 (29%) said drivers should try to avoid hitting an animal at all costs.
So it’s clear that there could be some confusion on what to do if you hit an animal while driving. But no matter if they’re a legal requirement or not, it’s always a good idea to report it to the appropriate authority anyway. This means the animal can either be treated or removed from the road correctly, and roads are kept clear for other road users.
Louise Thomas, motor insurance expert at Confused.com car insurance comments:
“It isn’t nice for any drivers to hit an animal when on the road. It can be a shocking experience for yourself, your passengers and other road users. But sometimes contact can’t always be avoided.
“Whether you’re obliged to legally report it or not, you should always inform the police or your local council. That’s because it could cause an obstruction for other drivers. That way, the road can be cleared and the animal can be disposed of correctly. Unless absolutely necessary, you should avoid moving the animal yourself as this could risk your own safety.
“If you’ve hit an animal and your vehicle is damaged, it’s always worth getting a quote and having the damage assessed. In some instances, you might feel it’s worth making a claim on your car insurance. But for smaller claims, sometimes it’s also worth seeing if you can cover the costs yourself, rather than going through your insurer. Making a claim of any size could impact your premiums in future, with claims a common reason for increased cost.
“If you do hit an animal when driving, our guide on common motoring myths explains what to do.”
Confused.com press office:
Launched in 2002, Confused.com was the UK's first digital marketplace for car insurance and is one of the leading brands in the sector, generating over one million quotes per month. It has expanded its range of comparison products over the years to include home insurance, van insurance, motorcycle insurance, and car finance comparison, as well as a number of tools designed to save consumers money.
Confused.com is not a supplier, insurance company or broker. It provides an objective and unbiased service. By using cutting-edge technology, it has developed a series of intelligent web-based solutions that evaluate a number of risk factors to help customers with their decision-making, subsequently finding them great deals on a wide-range of insurance products, financial services, utilities and more. Confused.com’s service is based on the most up-to-date information provided by UK suppliers and industry regulators.