We know that there is a lot to think about when you’re driving, including surrounding cars, pedestrians, and reckless drivers, but there’s something else to be wary of: animals in the road. It may seem trivial, but the reality is that there are roughly 1.5 million animal-car accidents each year, resulting in 10,000 injuries, 150 deaths, and an average of $2,500 in damage to property.
The good news is that while there’s no way to keep deer, elk, and moose off the highways (some drivers believe that deer whistles help, but the Information Institute for Insurance Safety says there’s no proof), a few safety tips can help you steer clear of everything from deer to raccoons, to your neighbor’s dog, to, well, steer.
- Stay Alert: Watch for “deer crossing” signs, and be sure to scan the road in front of you and to each side, especially near woods or water. If you see one deer there are likely others nearby. Also be especially cautious during peak season – fall – because it’s the season of both hunting and mating, both of which force animals to roam beyond their normal territory. You’ll also want to be on high alert during mealtimes – dusk and dawn – when animals are more likely to be on the move.
- Use Your Headlights: If you’re driving at night, use your high beams whenever possible, and if you see an animal, flick the brights on and off several times. Deer actually do fixate on headlights so flashing them may warn the animal away. Other animals will simply want to flee the oncoming light.
- Brake Carefully: If you think you have the time and room, reduce your speed, tap the brakes as a signal to drivers behind you, and sound your horn. If there’s no vehicle following you closely, brake hard.
- Don’t Swerve: Even if a collision seems unavoidable, don’t veer off the road to avoid an animal – your risk of injury may increase. Instead, keep the best control you can of yourself and your vehicle, and report the incident to the police and your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Buckle Up. This should go without saying, but always – ALWAYS – use your safety belt. And obey speed limits as well.