Stories we read or hear about near miss or actual vehicle collisions with animals can be horrifying. They have occurred with domestic horses, loose cattle on the road and wandering wildlife like deer, elk, and moose. We’re talking about collisions with animals that can typically weigh over a tonne! They are no match for a car and can be catastrophic.
We’re sharing some general information and recommendations and touched on a few key points about driving near wildlife.
State Farm Insurance is a leading agency involved in research of wildlife collisions. They report that the average cost of damage after hitting an animal is $4,500. They have a vested interest in studying this further and have partnered with The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). The TIRF provide an online information centre focused on road safety and wildlife. The Wildlife Roadsharing Research Centre (“WRRC”) is another great website that provides more detailed information – check it out.
Wildlife road signs are effective
State Farm (link here) survey statistics show that more than;
- 25% of people have hit a small animal on the road while driving,
- 25% have either hit or nearly hit a large animal while driving,
- 50% that had hit a large animal had damage to their car,
- 80% claim they do slow down when they see wildlife road signs.
Considering the number of cars on the road, vehicle-animal encounters are common and numerous.
Animal collisions can be fatal
In Canada, it is estimated that between 2001 to 2010, more than 296 people were killed due to animal collisions (TIRF National Fatality Database). Furthermore, the number of non-fatal wildlife collisions was estimated at more than 45,000 annually. Studies in the USA found the highest number of crash frequencies in October and November. Most occur on Fridays and weekends between 6:00 p.m. and midnight.
Myths and misconceptions
The WRRC provides some of the bigger myths and misconceptions;
- Drivers should always swerve to avoid colliding with wildlife: FALSE
- Deer whistles are an effective means to avoid collisions with deer: FALSE
- Drivers should always honk the horn and flash the lights at wildlife near the road: FALSE
- Once the animal has left the road, drivers can relax and ignore it: FALSE
- Collisions with animals are more likely to take place in rural areas: FALSE
- No need to report collisions with animals unless there is significant property damage or injuries to people: FALSE
- Drivers should respond to small wildlife in the same manner they would to large wildlife: FALSE
- Roads and vehicle collisions have little impact on wildlife species: FALSE
- We know a lot about wildlife-vehicle collisions and there are a lot of data and information on the issue: FALSE
To learn more detail about the rationale behind these comments you can read the Myths and Misconceptions Fact Sheet.
Protect yourself and stay safe
Here are some recommendations to avoid an animal collision and how to handle the situation should it ever occur. Some are obvious, others may be new to you.
- Wear your seat belt at all times.
- Stay especially alert during both dawn and dusk hours.
- Know your emergency and roadside assistance phone numbers.
- Keep an eye out for wildlife road signs.
- Stay in your lane if you see an animal, brake steadily, and do not cross over into the on-coming traffic.
- After a collision, park your vehicle to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights.
- Call the police, especially if the animal is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers.
- Document the incident with photos of your car, the surroundings, and any injuries. Get the names of any witnesses if possible.
- Stay away from a wounded animal since it can still cause harm to you.
We’ve all seen animals on the side of the road and our hope is that’s where they’ll stay. Never assume anything. Animals can be unpredictable, so be prepared.
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