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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Driving: Make the Right Impression

People judge us by our actions. They form opinions about us, and sometimes our company, when they watch us work. There is perhaps no more powerful image builder than the way we drive.

How many times have you witnessed a truck driver cut someone off as they made a wide turn, or totally block traffic when they parked without using warning signs? These, and other actions (whether good or bad), influence our impressions of a driver and his company. In our society, where people can capture images with smart phones and upload them via social media, millions of people can see a posted photo instantly. We can refer to the impressions these photos (and sometimes comments) produce as brand impact. Anything that produces a negative impression of a company will hurt business.

When you’re driving a company vehicle, keep in mind that you represent the company, and people are watching. To leave a positive impression, practice defensive driving. Be aware of what others are doing, and adjust your driving techniques.

Defensive driving is based on three factors: visibility, space and communication.

  • Visibility is about seeing and being seen. Be aware of the traffic behind, beside and in front of you. Constantly scan the road ahead and to the side. Check your mirrors every five seconds. Use your lights as required. This will help you avoid hazards.
  • Managing the space around your vehicle will help you avoid a collision. Maintain a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you. Tailgating is a sure way to create discomfort in other drivers and can easily result in a collision, if the driver in front has to stop quickly.
  • Communicate with other road users. Make eye contact with pedestrians, cyclists and drivers at intersections. Signal whenever you want to slow down, stop, turn or change lanes. If you need to get another person’s attention, use your horn.

Finally, get to know your vehicle before you drive it. Some vehicles have different systems than you’re used to, like ignition systems, anti-lock brakes, four-wheel drive and systems for traction and stability control.

  • Read the owner’s manual. Make sure you know where all the controls and instruments are and what they do.
  • Practice using wipers and washers, headlights, high beams, heater and defroster, so you can operate them without taking your eyes off the road.
  • Check and adjust your mirrors. Find your blind spots. Many accidents happen when people change lanes and don’t see the person, cyclist or vehicle in their blind spot.

Remember to drive defensively, and keep your company brand in mind when you drive.