As if it weren’t already challenging enough to navigate roads with pedestrians, cyclists, all types of vehicles, drivers must also share the roads with wildlife. Although nighttime, fall, and winter are prominent times for animal-related accidents, these incidents can happen at any time and place without warning.
Types of Wildlife on the Road
Not only can wild animals find their way onto highways and interstates, but even domestic animals that stray a bit too far from home. These are some of the most common animals that you may experience while driving on roads all across America:
According to some recent statistics, animal-related accidents occur every 39 minutes on average, and one out of every 17 collisions includes a wandering animal. A majority of these accidents occur on two-lane roads because there’s not enough room to move over to avoid a collision. Worse yet, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has estimated that deer collisions cause about 200 fatalities each year across the country.
As a general rule, wildlife species are most active at dawn and dusk, and the risks of a collision worsen during periods of inclement weather. Depending on the size of the animal and how you handle the interaction as a driver, collisions can result in thousands of dollars of property damage, severe injuries, and even fatalities.
If an Animal Runs in Front of Your Car
Having an animal run or jump in front of your car can be a terrifying experience. The biggest question that drivers ask themselves in this situation is whether to swerve or not. The short answer is almost all circumstances is no, don’t swerve.
Instead, slow down, firmly apply the brakes and stay in your lane. When you swerve, you are more likely to cause a more serious accident by hitting another car or going off the road.
Using Electronic Stability Control
If your vehicle is equipped with electronic stability control (ESC), this feature can help you when involved in an encounter with wildlife. This feature uses the speed sensors on your wheels to individually brake wheels and help you maintain control. ESC also works with your anti-lock brake system to prevent skidding in case of an emergency.
According to one report, this feature could prevent one-third of all fatal crashes and reduce the risk of rollover by 80%. In the U.S., vehicles manufactured in 2012 in later, and that weigh less than 10,000 pounds, are equipped with ESC.
Tips for Preventing Animal-related Accidents
- Scan both sides of the road for potential wildlife
- Avoid driving in forested areas at dawn and dusk
- Slow down your speed while driving in forested and rural areas
- Pay attention to wildlife crossing road signs
- Keep an eye out for glowing eyes in the foliage
- Use your high beam headlights to better see the sides of the road
- Understand when wildlife hunting and mating seasons are in your area
- Never drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, when tired, or when otherwise distracted
For your own safety and the wellbeing of all the natural species around you, slow down and use extra caution in areas known for having wildlife habitats, such as rural and forested areas. Always stay alert and remember that you aren’t the only one on the road. Rather, the road must be shared with people, vehicles, and animals of all shapes and sizes. Enrolling in preventative driving safety programs may be functionally useful, and may possibly save you money on your vehicle insurance.
And if you are involved in an animal-related accident, remember that injured animals can be dangerous. Make sure to call the accident into the local police and your insurance company to assess and evaluate damages as soon as possible.