Across the United States temperatures are dropping, leaves are falling, and wildlife is on the move. Autumn starts the deer mating and hunting seasons which can lead to dangerous driving conditions and wildlife collisions.
To swerve, or not to swerve: That is the question.
Before you decide one way or another, here are some statistics to consider:
- A collision with some form of wildlife occurs every 39 minutes (on average).
- 1 out of every 17-car collisions involves wandering wildlife.
- 89% of all wildlife collisions occur on roads with 2 lanes.
- 84% of all wildlife collisions occur in good weather and dry roads.
- The average repair cost of a car-deer collision is $2,800.
- Approximately 200 motorists die in the United States each year from car-wildlife collisions.
Accidents happen, but to limit your chances of a wildlife accident or collision, take these precautions:
Slow down when passing yellow animal-crossing signs. Warnings are posted to indicate heavy animal traffic frequents the area. If you’re driving on a road you’ve never driven on, pay special alert to where these signs are located.
Wildlife is most active during dusk, dawn, and at night. Deer are most frequently hit during dusk and dawn, while bears and moose are encountered at night.
Headlights have an illumination range of 200-250 feet. Allow for sufficient break time by reducing your speed to 45 mph at night – or even 30 mph when roads are icy or wet.
Pay attention to shoulders. Even though wildlife may be off to the side as your car approaches, animals may suddenly attempt to flee by inexplicably leaping into the road. Slow as you approach and don’t hesitate to use the horn.
Look for reflecting eyes. If an animal is close enough that you can see their eyes glowing from your headlights, the animal is close enough to cause a collision with your vehicle on the road.
Slow if you spot a moose. These animals exhibit strange behaviors when it comes to encountering a perceived threat. A moose may gallop down the road ahead of your vehicle for long distances before finally veering into the road ahead of you.
Deer, elk and antelope wander in groups. In the event you see one crossing, slow your vehicle to a crawl, because likely that more will follow.
Wildlife embraces salt as a condiment. Many states and provinces use road salt – it’s important keep in mind that roads may be drier but wildlife more numerous.
To swerve, or not to swerve: The answer
Experts advise not swerving. You can suffer more horrible consequences from an oncoming delivery truck than from leaping mule deer or skittering antelope. It’s best to lock the brakes, jam the horn, and (if time allows) duck low behind the dashboard.
Moose are the lone exception to the swerving rule. An adult moose can grow to approximately 1,600 pounds. Consequently, colliding with a moose is comparable to colliding with a compact vehicle on stilts, with the likelihood of fatal or long-term injuries to the front-seat occupants of your car. So, if the situation allows, swerving for a moose is a defensive option.
As we move further into the Autumn months, Amerit encourages you to practice safe driving. Know your surroundings, watch for wildlife crossing the road and be alert at all times.