How to Avoid Accidents with Wildlife
The end of the year is deer season (typically October through December), and that means a large movement of the deer population in the United States. During deer season, statistically the chance of hitting wildlife, particularly deer, is increased substantially. State Farm states, "U.S. drivers on average have a 1 in 116 chance of a collision with an animal" and between July 2019 and Jun 2020, there were over 1.9 million animal collision insurance claims.
What to do to lower chances of wildlife crashes
Would you be prepared if an animal were to run out in front of your car? A good thing to do is to think 'What If..?'. Preparing yourself mentally and having a plan before driving on animal populated roads could be a life-saving practice. Think about what you would do if you were in that situation. To help you with this, it is very useful to learn how to avoid accidents with wildlife and what all the options are if something were to occur.
1. Use your eyes
The best and easiest way to avoid hitting animals is to keep your eyes on the road. Some animals will be scared off by the sound or lights, but there are some that won't be. If driving at night, look for eye-shine (glowing eyes) of animals further down the road or off to the side. If you have a passenger, have them also help because the more eyes the better.
2. Consider time of year and peak hours
Animals are most active at dusk or dawn, so keep that in mind and be vigilant. Farmers' Almanac says, "Deer are most active between 6 and 9 pm-a time when most drivers find it difficult to see". Also keep in mind what time of year it is. Spring is when wildlife and their young are on the move, and early fall is typically mating season, and animals are tracking scents which can lead them onto roads or highways.
3. Don't follow too closely
When driving heavy duty equipment, stopping times are different than those of regular sized vehicles. Always keep a safe following distance from drivers in front of you who may slam on the brakes suddenly. If you feel like you won't have enough reaction time if the driver suddenly stops, then you should give them space. This is one of the easy things to prevent unnecessary accidents.
4. Use your brights
Don't be afraid to use your high beams. Brighter lights allow you to see further and wider, but also increase your visibility to the wildlife. Remember to be courteous of oncoming cars and dim them if they are relatively close to you.
5. Deer travel in groups
If you see one deer on the road, there is most likely another one or ones behind it. Slow down and keep your eyes open for them just in case. Turkeys also travel in groups, so don't leave them out!
6. Use the center lane
This is not always an option, but if on a multilane highway, use the center lane when you can to avoid the chance of hitting animals that may be just off to the side of the road.
7. Use your horn
You know the expression a deer in headlights? Well often times deer freeze up and won't move. If you see an animal down the road or on the road, flash your lights to try and ward them off. Sometimes when that doesn't work, honk a few times to scare them out of the way.
8. Wear your seatbelt
You should always be wearing your seatbelt, but just to say it again: Wear your Seatbelt! If an accident were to occur, injuries can range from just a scratch to severe depending on your choice.
9. Stay in control
If you are about to collide with an animal, don't swerve. Try to remain in control of the vehicle and just hit them if necessary. Swerving can make things worse, such as losing control of the vehicle or hitting another car or something off the road. Press the brakes on impact to lessen the blow and stay in your lane.
10. Slow down
This one may be one the easiest and most important to remember. Observe the speed limit, but generally give yourself more time to react by going under the speed limit. We know how important it is to make the delivery on time, but be cautious of your surroundings, time of year and time of day. Look out for animal crossing signs and look at your surroundings. The faster you are traveling, the less time and ability you have to steer away from objects.
If an animal strike is unavoidable, the best course of action is to apply the brakes smoothly, holding brake pedal pressure, stay in your lane and strike the animal if necessary.
What to do if you see wildlife
Some of the tips above will help you with seeing wildlife on the road, but there are some other things to think about. Anticipate unpredictable behavior from the animal. Try to figure out what it is doing or where it is going and remember that some animals travel in groups. If you see one, be prepared to see more.
Top 10 States Where Animal Collisions are Most Likely
- West Virginia (1 in 37 chance)
- Montana (1 in 47 chance)
- Pennsylvania (1 in 51 chance)
- South Dakota (1 in 53 chance)
- Michigan (1 in 54 chance)
- Wisconsin (1 in 57 chance)
- Iowa (1 in 58 chance)
- Mississippi (1 in 59 chance)
- Minnesota (1 in 64 chance)
- Wyoming (1 in 64 chance)