If you live in the United States, you probably depend on a car to get around. But although driving is often the quickest (and sometimes only) way to get from point A to point B, operating a vehicle also rife with safety hazards. These risks are even higher in certain U.S. states where moose, deer, coyotes, and other wildlife share highways carved out of their natural habitat.
Now a new study has revealed which U.S. states are most prone to wildlife collisions based on 10 years of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration and Insurance Institute of Highway Safety. Did your state make the list? Read on for life-saving tips to help you safely share the roads with wildlife in your home state.
What Animals Do Drivers Usually Find On The Highway?
It depends on where you live. According to BuyAutoInsurance.com, deer were frequently involved in wildlife collisions across the United States. But drivers are likely to encounter even larger animals in Alaska or Montana, where moose, elk, and bears wander across the roads. In New Mexico, drivers risk hitting coyotes, cows, and horses. But even striking smaller animals, like raccoons and turkeys, can yield a serious dent. These collisions might not be fatal for you, but just slowing down just a little bit could help save an animal’s life.
What Are The 10 Worst U.S. States For Wildlife Collisions?
According to the report, Montana, South Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Kansas, Maine, New Mexico, North Dakota, and Oklahoma are the 10 worst states for animal collisions. But of course, reckless drivers still collide with animals even in states that aren’t on this list. For instance, speeding tourists regularly kill bears and other wildlife in California’s Yosemite National Park, where cars drive too fast without considering the owls, bears, and other endangered animals who share these roads.
What Time Of Day Are Animal Collisions Most Likely?
Wildlife are most active at dawn and dusk. If you can, try to avoid driving in the hours around sunrise and sunset, when wildlife collisions are most likely. This risk grows even further during fall and winter months when deer, moose, and elk are mating — making animals even more wild and unpredictable. But wildlife can dart in front of your car at any time of year. Just take it from this writer, who hit a moose one early summer evening in Alaska after the animal sprinted in front of her car.
How Can I Avoid Hitting Wildlife?
Drive slowly, be alert, and drive with your headlights on so that animals can see you. If traffic permits, drive in the center of the highway to give yourself extra room in case an animal steps into your lane. If you do see wildlife on or alongside the road, slow down a stop and pump your brakes to warn any drivers behind you. But if the animal refuses to move, don’t get out of your car. Try flashing your headlights, which could encourage the furry interloper to continue on their way. Don’t forget that wildlife, especially deer and coyote, often travel in groups. Spotting one animal could signal the presence of others nearby.
What If An Animal Jumps In Front Of My Car?
Sadly, it’s not always possible to avoid collisions with wildlife. So, our next piece of advice is going to sound counter-intuitive. If there’s no way to avoid a collision, experts advise hitting wildlife with your car straight on, because swerving to avoid the wild animal in your path could plunge your car into traffic, putting even more lives danger. One possible exception to this rule occurs when drivers are about to collide with a moose, according to Canada’s National Post.
“Moose are particularly deadly for drivers because they’re basically 600 pounds of meat on toothpick legs. In a crash, your hood goes through the toothpicks and the animal flies through your windshield; so swerving can potentially ward off a direct hit,” the newspaper explained. “But here again, you’ve got to be careful. If swerving around a moose means steering into oncoming traffic, don’t do it. And if you’re driving a truck or SUV, you probably shouldn’t do it either.”
I feel like a lot of people don’t realize how big moose are, so here are some pictures pic.twitter.com/8OY3QIrVAc
— Cody Carlos (@cocdcy) November 23, 2020
What Do I Do If I Hit An Animal?
Many states require that you report accidents with wildlife by law, plus you’ll also need a police report to file an insurance claim. If you hit an animal on the highway, pull over to the safe place, turn on your hazards (and/or throw out a flare) to warn other drivers, and then call the state troopers or police. Whatever you do, don’t get too close to the injured animal, because wounded wildlife can still hurt you, even if you’re just trying to help.
Drive Safe To Save Lives
Follow the speed limit, avoid driving after dark, and practice extra caution when driving through areas with high populations of wildlife. These simple road safety tips can help avoid deadly collisions and help save an animal’s (or even your own) life. Be safe!
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