Oh Deer! How to Avoid Creatures on the Road
Animals in the road are one of the biggest, unexpected dangers drivers can face while travelling. An animal will travel in search of food, water or shelter, and have no choice but to cross a road that puts them in danger of humans and their cars. Each year there are roughly 1.5 million animal-and-car accidents, resulting in 150 deaths, 10,000 injuries and an average $2,500 in property damages. Young adult drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 are reported to suffer the most injuries caused by car accidents with animals.
How to Avoid an Accident with an Animal
There are several steps drivers can take to avoid or significantly reduce hitting an animal on the road. The most important one is to simply slow down, especially when animal crossing signs are posted. Pay attention when you are driving on a road that borders woody areas, or is surrounded by fields. These conditions are where most of the animal and car collisions occur, so it is a good idea to reduce your speed down to 45 miles per hour or less. Drivers who pay attention to this rule of thumb will increase their reaction time to apply the brakes if an animal suddenly appears out of nowhere.
Be Aware of What’s Around You!
Drivers should not only pay attention to signs that indicate animal crossings, but also scan the entire road to anticipate any wildlife before it enters the roadway. And if you see one deer for example, be prepared for there to be more because in many cases a baby may be following its mother, or a male deer in pursuit of its mate.
Here Are Some More Tips About How to Avoid Collisions with Animals:
- The time of day and season will play a role in when animals are more likely to appear on a road. The early morning hours and sunset, as well as the first few hours after dark, are when many animals travel in search of food. Animals are often drawn to grazing by the side of the road because that is where the grasses grow greener and more plentiful. And don’t throw food out of your car window. Even if you rationalize that your apple core is biodegradable and you are “helping” the animals by giving them free treats, this will have the opposite effect by drawing even more of the vulnerable critters towards the danger zone.
- Pay attention to the seasons. Deer are especially vulnerable to vehicle collisions during the fall when it is both hunting and mating seasons, and they are prone to travelling beyond their usual habitat.
- The saying “like a deer in the headlights” refers to the fact that animals will often freeze and fixate on a bright light coming towards them. Use your high-beams at night to light up the sides of the road. Flash your bright lights on and off repeatedly when you see an animal ahead. This may allow time for it to run away from the road.
- Use your brakes when needed. If there is time to avoid hitting an animal, reduce speed and tap your brakes to warn drivers that may be behind you. Sound your horn if you have to and if there is no car following close behind you, firmly apply the brakes. Avoid swerving if possible as you may risk greater injury to yourself or another driver.
- Always report an animal collision to the police and your insurance company. If an animal is injured during a collision, call for help. Pull your car to a safe space while waiting for either law enforcement or animal control to arrive and help. Sometimes injured animal has been rescued and restored to good health after a collision but, if possible leave it to the professionals to make that determination.
We all want to safely share the planet with our animal friends, so follow these common sense tips to avoid deer, armadillos (if you’re in Texas), raccoons, dogs, cats and even larger creatures, such as moose and bears. By being diligent and watching out for animals, we can all be safe on the roads of North America, especially during the upcoming summer vacation months.
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