Collisions with Trees

559 people died on German roads in 2017 after a traffic accident involving a collision with a tree. That accounts for around 17 % of all road fatalities. The chance of road users dying after a collision with a tree is around 2.3 times greater than the chance of dying in an average traffic accident on a road outside of a built-up area (excluding freeways).

The majority of collisions with trees happen at times when there is little traffic and at high speeds, and they have extremely serious consequences. Effective measures must therefore be taken to mitigate the consequences of these accidents (by ensuring roadside areas are „forgiving“ and by means of good vehicle design and safety features) and to enforce appropriate speed limits. It appears there are physical limits to the extent to which passive vehicle safety can contribute to reducing the consequences of serious accidents like these.

Collisions with trees are particularly serious accidents that happen when cars leave the road unintentionally, generally at high speeds. The UDV (German Insurers Accident Research) therefore makes the following recommendations:

  • The speed limit should be reduced and surveillance introduced in black spots where there are significant numbers of collisions with trees. There should be a speed limit of 80 kph on tree-lined roads.

  • Crash barriers should be erected at accident black spots.

  • A judicious combination of known, effective measures should be implemented.

  • No new trees should be planted without crash barriers.

  • Vehicles should be equipped with effective driver assistance systems that improve safety.