What to Do During a Wildlife Collision

In an earlier post on Vogel Talks RVing, I reviewed what drivers can do to reduce the chances of having a wildlife vehicle collision.

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Wild animals are a threat to motorists, but there are measures you can take to avoid hitting them.

Heed the warning signs and increase your roadside awareness. Reduce speed in wildlife zones. Drive defensibly and actively watch for wildlife, movement, or shining eyes on and beside the road. Actively scan the sides of the roads as you drive for any signs of wildlife.

One deer means more deer. Deer travel in herds and if you see one, slow right down as there will be many more. Moose are less gregarious, so one moose may simply mean one moose but it is still suggestive that more moose are in the area. And cows are frequently with a calf.

What if a Wildlife Collision is Inevitable?

In certain situations, there is no real choice except to hit the wild animal. Diminish the impact if it is inevitable. If an accident with a deer, elk, or moose is inevitable, consider the following suggestions for lessening the impact.

If it appears impossible to avoid the animal, aim for the spot the animal came from, not where it is going. This may take you away from it and the animal is more likely to keep moving forward rather than backtracking. This will only work if there is one animal.

Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Rocky Mountain Goats in the Canadian Rockies. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Shift your line of eyesight to where you want to go, not at the animal. You tend to drive where you look―if you are looking at the animal, that is where the vehicle tends to go.

Try to skim rather than fully impact the animal. If you must hit something, try for a glancing blow rather than a head-on hit.

Brake firmly and quickly, then look, and steer your vehicle to strike the animal at an angle.

Take your foot off the brake as you impact.

The release of the brake causes a slight lift of the front end of the vehicle and reduces the chances of the animal coming through your windshield if your vehicle is tall enough.

If you’re heading into a collision, lean toward the door pillar. In the Mythbusters where they tested this, the center of the car was completely crushed in every impact but the triangle by the door pillar was intact in each accident. No guarantees are offered; you are far better off avoiding the collision.

What to do Following a Wildlife Collision?

This depends on the type and condition of the road, the amount of traffic, the type of animal, and the condition of the driver.

Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bison © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take care after a collision with a deer, elk, or moose.

Check passengers for injuries and treat accordingly. Even if there are no injuries, shock may occur fairly quickly. Try to reassure one another and if it is cold, put on warmer clothing immediately as shock or fear increases the inability to ward off cold. If it is winter, stay in the car for warmth.

There are some important steps to take after assessing if everyone is relatively unharmed.

Pull off the road if possible.

Turn on hazard lights and if you can, illuminate the animal with your head lights.

Use road flares or triangles if you have them.

Warn other drivers if there is a carcass on the road which poses a hazard.

You may choose to carefully approach the animal to determine if it is dead or injured. If it is injured, back off. An injured animal can be very dangerous; it may kick or gore you from fear and pain.

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The elk or wapiti is one of the largest land mammals in North America © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You may choose to remove a dead animal from the road so that it does not present a hazard to other drivers. Quick removal prevents other animals from being attracted to the highway. Only attempt to remove the animal if you are 100 percent certain that it is dead, it is safe to do so, and you are physically capable of moving it.

Inspect your vehicle to see if it safe to continue driving.

Call the police immediately or flag down help. Remember that most insurance companies won’t pay for the damages you suffer from hitting a deer or a moose if you don’t file a police report.

Report vehicle damage to your insurance company.

Worth Pondering…

Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you miss the sense of where you’re going and why.

—Eddie Cantor

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