The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explains that from 1975 to the mid-2000s there was a general upward trend in deaths from wildlife collisions, but this trend has leveled off over the past decade. About 20% of motor vehicle crash deaths result from a vehicle leaving the roadway and hitting a fixed object alongside the road. Wildlife, trees, utility poles, and traffic barriers are the most common objects struck. 

Today, our blog focuses on preventing collisions with wildlife such as deer, moose, and elk, which are the larger animals that could cause some serious damage to the vehicle and threaten the health of the driver and passengers. 

We’ve probably all heard (or used) the phrase “like a deer caught in headlights” to portray a feeling of fear or surprise. While this language is fun to use in writing or when telling a story, in real life having a deer staring you down as your car careens towards it at high speed, is another matter completely. Wildlife collisions can be extremely dangerous and scary for all involved. Here are a few suggestions from AAA and the Farmer’s Almanac on how to stay safe. 

Know Times to Be Extra Vigilant 

Experienced drivers know that there are certain times of day, months of the year, and locations that one should be more vigilant for wildlife trying to cross the road. The Farmer’s Almanac states that we should all “be on our highest alert at dusk and dawn, when many animals are most active. Deer are most active between 6 and 9 pm—a time when most drivers find it difficult to see.” 

In addition, the time of year is critical in knowing when to be most alert for crossing wildlife. Early fall is usually mating season for animals, such as moose, and they are tracking scents. Deer are most active during their breeding season in the fall from October to early January. Springtime is when most wildlife families with their young are on the move as well.

Know Places to Be Extra Vigilant

If you travel through heavily wooded areas or along roads that have signs denoting wildlife populations, slow down! This is especially important during mating or hunting season when deer, moose, elk, or other wildlife tend to move faster and can end up on roads and highways. 

Slow Down 

Always give yourself some reaction time when driving, whether it is with the car in front of you or thinking ahead to a potential encounter with roaming wildlife. If you are obeying traffic signs and the speed limit you will increase your reaction time if one does come into your lane of travel. 

Use Your Car’s Tools

When traveling at night, it is best to stay in the center lane and keep your “brights” on if you suspect that wildlife may be in the area. The lights can alert them of the traffic and potentially keep them away from the danger. Additionally, if you do see wildlife, use your horn to let them know you are there and to move. And don’t forget your seatbelt EVERY time you get in the car. It could save your life. 

Stay Safe In An Impact 

If you are faced with an encounter with wildlife try these things to minimize the damage and risk of injury. 

  • Try not to panic and stay in control. 
  • Look in your rearview mirror and brake if no one is behind you. 
  • Steer toward the side of the road where the animal came from. (You may be able to avoid a direct hit.) 
  • Let up on the brake right before you hit the animal so it can go over your car rather than through your windshield. 
  • Lean toward the door to avoid being hit by the animal going over your car or through your windshield. 

If you are in an accident, try to remain calm and pull over. Do not approach the animal and call the emergency services. Put on your hazard lights and check on any passengers that may have been in the car. If you have a phone with you, take pictures of the accident and be sure to show them to your insurance company later when you file.