10 Driving Tips To Lower Your Risk Of Hitting An Animal

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November, 2015.

As the nights get longer, your chances of hitting wildlife while you drive get greater. When that happens, it can be devastating. Driving at night on a two-lane road in Colorado several years ago, with my eight-year-old son in the back seat, I slowed for a female deer crossing in front of me, then watched in horror as her baby started following her, only to be crushed by a large truck that was passing me in the opposite direction.

Sadly this isn’t an isolated incident. DMV.org gives us some sobering statistics:

  • A collision with some form of wildlife occurs, on average, every 39 minutes.
  • 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 on 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.

As we move into winter in the northern hemisphere, and the nights get longer, people are at an increased risk for road collisions with wildlife.

The first and most important piece of advice is of course to slow down. Animals have to cross the roads and highways that we humans have created in order to find food, water, shelter, and mates. By driving at a reasonable speed you’ll have a better chance of stopping in time if an animal runs into the road. Not to mention, keeping your speed down makes the roads safer for everyone, pedestrians and drivers alike.

10 More Tips To Avoid Hitting An Animal While Driving

 

1.  Be especially careful when driving at dawn, dusk, and at night, when wildlife is most active.

During dawn and dusk, deer are hit most frequently; at night it’s bears and moose.

2.  Look for reflecting eyes.

Also, by lowering your dashboard lights slightly, you’ll have a better chance of seeing your headlights reflected in the eyes of animals, giving you time to brake.

3.  Keep in mind that when one animal crosses the road, there may be others following behind.

Often times wildlife travel in pairs or groups. If you see an animal on the road, slow to a crawl.

4.  Pay attention to shoulders.

Wildlife are unpredictable, so even if a deer is off to the side as you approach, it might suddenly decide to flee by leaping into the middle of the road. Slow down when you see an animal close to the road, and don’t hesitate to use your horn.

5.  Slow down when you see those yellow animal-crossing signs.

These warnings are posted precisely at spots where there is known to be heavy animal traffic.

6.  Drive with extra caution on two-lane roads bordered by trees or fields.

As noted above, 89 percent of all vehicle/wildlife accidents happen on two-lane roads.

7.  Use your high beams when you can.

Use your high beams whenever possible, but remember that they illuminate only between 200 and 250 feet in front of you. Reduce your speed to 45 mph at night, or even 30 mph if the road is icy.

8.  If there is ice, there may also be salt and wildlife.

If you are driving in a state that uses road salt, you are more likely to encounter wildlife, who are attracted to the salt.

9.  Keep all of your food trash (and all your other trash) inside your car.

Throwing food out your car window pollutes the environment and attracts wildlife to the roads.

10. Be especially vigilant if you are driving in moose country.

These animals may be amazingly photogenic, but they also behave weirdly on roads: instead of leaping away to seek cover, moose may gallop down the road ahead of you for several miles before deciding to disappear into the woods.

No matter how careful you are, sometimes accidents are unavoidable. The Humane Society of the United States provides this advice on what to do if you are involved in a vehicle/wildlife incident.

Safe travels!

Take Action!

Ask California legislators to build wildlife corridors over California freeways to help protect mountain lion populations.

 

 

307 comments

bob Petermann
bob P2 days ago

Thanks for the tips

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Anna R
Anna R9 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Sophie M
Sophie M14 days ago

Thank you

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Nicole D
Nicole D14 days ago

Ha, glad I don't live in a place with moose and bears. Driving and worrying about those guys would suck.

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Aldana W
Aldana W14 days ago

Thanks for telling people to slow down, it saves lives.

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Mostapha Z
Mostapha Z14 days ago

Great public awareness article. I hope that we all heed the cautionary notes and avoid unnecessary accidents and injuries involving wildlife. Safe driving my friends !

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Janis K
Janis K15 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Arlene C
Arlene C16 days ago

Merci Judy

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Joy T
Joy T16 days ago

Great info.! But I've also had deer walking down the street by my house, at all different hours of the day, here in CA! (I live in the 'burbs'!!)

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Chad A
Chad A16 days ago

Nice reminder/repost.

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