Wildlife and Domestic Animals

Most of us are comfortable living on the same planet as animals, both wild and domestic. Sometimes, though, the worlds of drivers and animals collide. We want to keep that in a figurative sense and not a literal sense. At some point when you drive, you will come upon an animal. It might be standing in the middle of the road wondering what you are doing there. Even worse, it might dart out into the road and directly into your path. One of the most difficult choices you will ever have to make as a safe driver is this: An animal runs into the road and stops, directly in your path. You can swerve into oncoming traffic, run yourself off the road into who knows what (or who knows who if there are people in the area), or keep going. In such a terrible case, the animal loses. Even in a crash with a deer, which can actually damage vehicles more than a deer in some cases, how will you fare crashing head on against an oncoming vehicle? How about a tree or a group of children standing by the road? Of course we want to avoid doing harm to any animal. But there may come a time when you, as the driver, have to make this tough call. You must be prepared to do so. Just remember to scan the road at all times and aim high in your steering as a part of your normal driving routine. Practicing these techniques will provide your best chance at never having to make this terrible choice.

Also think about this when it comes to animals and vehicular traffic:

  • Wildlife are active mostly right around dawn and dusk. Be alert. That said, they can appear at any time of day or night and at any place.
  • Animal crossing signs are not placed along the side of the road for no reason. Raise your level of awareness when you pass by such a sign. And despite the absence of an animal crossing sign, be extra attentive in more rural areas with a lot of woods and water – places where animals roam and look for food.
  • If your scanning techniques are what they should be, you are not just watching the road ahead of you. You are also scanning the sides of the road. Doing this gives you more warning of the presence of animals. At night, the light from your headlights might even reflect off of their eyes alerting you to their presence.
  • Hitting a deer is dangerous due to their size and sheer mass. While you should always be on alert for any animal, also know that the months from October to December are when most deer crashes occur. That’s because it is deer mating season, so deer move more during that time. Unfortunately, their travels take them near and onto our roadways.
  • If you are lucky enough to see animals along the side of the road before they run in front of you, slow down. The presence of your vehicle may be enough to spook them. Do you know for sure which way they will run, though?
  • After you safely pass a stretch of road where you saw animals along the side, flash your headlights to alert oncoming drivers.
  • Always avoid a collision with an animal whenever possible. If you have time and space, tap your brakes to slow down and sound your horn. That may frighten the animal off. Be aware of this, though: The expression, “Like a deer in the headlights” is real. A deer will most likely freeze when illuminated by your headlights. If nobody is following you, you may need to make a hard stop to avoid hitting the animal. Flashing your lights is useless. The deer senses a threat and will remain still until it feels the threat is gone.
  • If you hit a larger animal, whether wild or domestic (deer, cow) you must report the crash to law enforcement. There is a good chance you won’t be going anywhere anyway. Your vehicle may very well sustain considerable damage in such a collision.
  • And one final time: If you cannot avoid a crash with an animal, keep your car on the road. Swerve as much as possible without leaving the road from either side.
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