Driving Safety – Animals in the Road

Originally published Sept. 16, 2015

Construction workers spend hundreds of hours on roadways, and even they are surprised when an animal darts out in the road.

One of the nation’s leading automobile insurers estimates that 1.23 million deer/vehicle collisions occurred in the United States between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2012, costing more than $4 billion in vehicle damage. The average claim for a deer/vehicle collision during that time was $3,305 – up 4.4 percent from the previous year. Over the last four years, the number of deer-related claims paid by this insurer increased 7.9 percent, while other claims declined 8.6 percent. These included moving vehicles first-party, physical damage claims not caused by weather, criminal activity and fire. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports that deer/vehicle collisions in the United States cause approximately 200 fatalities and 29,000 injuries annually.

In addition to deer, drivers kill many other types of animals on Indiana roadways each year. Each incident has the possibility for human fatality as well. Signs that indicate animals may be close enough to the roadway to pose a safety hazard include:

  • Caution signs indicating animal crossings.
  • Animals close to the road. Many animals travel in groups. If you see one, there are likely more that you don’t see. Slow down, and stay alert.
  • Animal carcasses on the road could mean there are more animals nearby – particularly smaller animals like possums and raccoons scavenging for food.
  • Deer activity peaks from October to December, and nearly half of deer/vehicle collisions happen then. Fall is also a busy time for squirrels and other small animals to gather food and begin nesting for winter. Tree-lined streets become safety hazards when cars swerve to avoid these animals.

Tips to remember:

  • If an animal jumps in front of your vehicle, do not swerve. Brake firmly and calmly. Swerving can cause your vehicle to leave the roadway or hit an oncoming vehicle.
  • Nearly 90 percent of animal/vehicle collisions happen at dawn or dusk, so be especially alert during these low visibility times.
  • Remember to wear your seat belt every time you are in a vehicle. A properly worn seat belt can reduce injuries and possibly save your life in a collision.

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