For whatever reasons, incidents of vehicles hitting animals on roads in the United States are increasing. According to State Farm, in one year alone 1.2 million accident claims that involved a vehicle striking an animal were filed. The insurance company has also reported that during those five years, there has been almost a fifteen percent increase in animals and cars colliding.
While you might feel sorry for an animal that has been hit by a car, humans are also put at risk by such collisions. For example, deer antlers can puncture windshields, leading to serious or even fatal injuries for the driver or passengers. Animal bones, spines, and teeth can seriously damage tires, causing the car to spin out of control and even potentially roll. At the very least, a car can be severely damaged by a collision with an animal, leaving the car owner to figure out how to remedy the situation.
Animal Behavior Is Unpredictable
First, it’s vital to understand that animal behavior can be wildly unpredictable. Despite that fact, there are measures humans can take to help maintain at least a certain level of control when they cross paths with animals on the road.
When you see road signs that indicate a certain stretch is a common area for animals to cross, beware. Staying alert is vital no matter where and when you are behind the wheel, but in such areas, the likelihood that an animal will jump in front of your vehicle increases dramatically. Speeding in areas where animals are known to cross the road frequently only further increases your chances of striking one. The faster you go, the less reaction time you have and the longer it takes to bring your car to a complete stop.
It’s much more likely that you will hit an animal in the night. Your visibility diminishes dramatically after the sun goes down, even if you are in a rural area where there are no other cars and you can turn on your brights. Some animals are more active at night and combined with the fact that in general there are fewer cars on most roads, certain areas can become loaded with animals that are unaware of any danger speeding around a nearby corner. Animals like deer also freeze when a bright light, like what comes from your headlights, shines on them. The animals might suddenly bolt after standing in the light for a long time, making their behavior even more unpredictable.
Avoiding driving when you are drowsy is another way to prevent accidents with animals. Most people feel tired at night when visibility is already diminished. Their reaction time is further downgraded due to fatigue. You also run the risk of falling asleep at the wheel, and even if you doze for only a moment it can be enough time to not see the animal standing in the road directly in front of your car. Even if you aren’t tired, you need to keep your eyes on the lookout, both in front of the car and to the sides for any signs of animals. If you do see an animal standing on the side of the road, slow down and wait to let it pass before moving on.
What to do in Emergencies after Hitting an Animal Accidentally?
Now, I know that this unpredictability puts us in greater danger than we are prepared for. Despite being overly careful, there’s still a chance you may face this kind of situation.
So here are some things to keep in mind in case you accidentally hit an animal on the road (of course, this is provided that you are safe from harming yourself).
If you hit a large animal, don’t panic. I know it’s hard but you have to keep calm to think. You have to regain control of your car and pullover as soon as it’s safe to do so. This allows you to breathe and assess the damage.
First, check on yourself and your passengers (if you have), your safety matters first and foremost.
Next, assess the situation. Is there a need to call on the police? Check if there’s an obstruction that needs to be cleared and call for help so that it can be cleared as soon as possible. You may be asked to fill out a report, traffic tickets may be incurred, or you may be asked to pay a penalty. But this police report can help you in the long run, if you need to file an insurance claim.
Speaking of insurance, you may also want to check the damages to your car. It’s best to take photos on your mobile phone to document what happened. If you hit a large animal, it may cause serious dents or broken windows. Document everything before the police come if they are needed. If there are damages, it’s best to contact your insurance company as soon as possible to check for any applicable coverage.
Next, check the animal you’ve hit. Is it alive? Is it dead? Is there any way you can help them live by administering first aid medication? Leaving a dead animal on the road is something most people frown upon, leaving it still capable of living is just a bit inhumane. However, never get near them without contacting animal control first, especially if the animal you’ve hit is considered wild. We already established how unpredictable they can be, much more if they are hurt or if they feel threatened.
Lastly, prevention is always the key to reduce the chance of this incident happening in the first place. Taking defensive driving courses can help you with that. Too tight on schedule? You don’t have to worry about this because there are several reputable online defensive driving courses you can choose from. Try iDriveSafely, MyImprov, GoToTrafficSchool, or Aceable.
These courses are offered 100% online so you can take them wherever you are, at your most convenient time. You can even get insurance discounts for completing them or remove points from your driving record and dismiss a ticket if your state allows.