As the warm weather gets here, many more animals are to be expected on the roads. Larger animals may be emerging from hibernation, and small animals may be getting ready to start families, pushing them further and further onto roadways and into human areas to look for food and territory. Unfortunately, larger animals can cause serious damage to cars. They may also cause car accidents. Each year, many people are killed or sustain personal injuries in accidents with larger animals or are injured or killed when trying to swerve to avoid hitting small animals.
Since animals tend to be most active at dawn and dusk, it is a good idea to avoid driving at these times, especially if you are sleepy. If you need to drive, make sure that you use your high beam headlights in order to see as far as possible in suburban and rural areas. Often, animals are not clearly visible in the dark unless your headlights happen to hit their eyes, which are often luminescent. If you’re driving with someone, consider having one person stay on the lookout to alert you to any possible animals approaching the roadway. This can leave you free to focus on driving. If you are driving alone, slow down, especially when approaching wooded areas.
If you see a large animal, such as a deer, in your headlights, blow your horn with one long blast and brake firmly. The horn blast may frighten the deer or larger animal and cause it to run away. Avoid swerving, as you may hit the animal as it is trying to escape. If it is safe for you to do so, consider braking and honking until the animal leaves the road area. Be sure to stay alert as sometimes a larger animal is followed by its offspring.
If you see a small animal in the roadway, follow the same procedure. Brake firmly while blowing your horn. Avoid slamming on your brakes or swerving. Try to keep alert to any drivers or other cars around you. Stopping suddenly in a rural area with no other cars is much safer than trying to do the same thing on a busy suburban stretch with cars behind you.
If you do hit an animal, do not touch the animal. Move your car off the road, set hazard lights on, and call the police or local animal authorities. If you have hit a smaller animal and it is alive, you may want to contact a wilderness or animal shelter or veterinarian for assistance. If you have hit a small animal and have killed it, you may wish to call animal control. If it is someone’s pet, you may wish to pull your car off to the side of the road and visit nearby houses to identify its owner.