Any good trucker knows that sharing the road is important. This is especially true on the highway, where every vehicle deserves its space. But that awareness doesn’t just extend to fellow drivers – there are other occasional highway travelers that truck drivers should be on the lookout for: animals.
Winter is here, that means more deer crossing roads and more deer-vehicle collisions. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimate there are 1.6 million deer collisions in the U.S. every year. Among these accidents there have been more than 200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries and more than $4 billion in property damage.
Deer aren’t the only large four-legged hazard you have to worry about. In some regions elk and moose populations also pose a crash risk. During the winter months of December, January and February the likelihood of colliding with a large animal more than doubles, and in the states of West Virginia (1 in 41), Montana (1 in 58), Pennsylvania (1 in 67), Iowa (1 in 68), and South Dakota (1 in 70) the odds are even higher. Chris Mullen, director of technology research at State Farm, reminds us that “we know there is an increased risk of collision with deer around dawn and dusk, and also during the winter season. However, drivers should be engaged, alert and on the lookout at all times because you never know when you may need to react to a deer or any other obstacle that may suddenly be in your path.”
As such, here are a few ways truckers can avoid hitting animals:
- Slow down and drive at a safe speed since excessive speed reduces reaction time and increases braking distance. Keep this in mind especially at dusk and dawn as that is when deer and other animals are the most active.
- Deer typically travel in groups, so if you see one deer be prepare for more deer to cross the road.
- Pay attention to “deer/animal crossing” signs. Decrease your speed in those areas and drive with caution especially in wooded areas, farmland, and near water.
- Always buckle up, every trip, every time.
- When driving at night use your high beams, as much as you safely can, to illuminate the sides of the road where animals may be. Be sure to watch for the glint of light reflected in an animal’s eyes. Also, look for animals’ silhouettes in back-lit conditions.
- Do not rely on products such as deer whistles, deer fences, or reflectors which are not proven effective. Don’t rely on them to keep you safe.
- Focus on the road, scanning for hazards, including animals. The sooner an animal is seen on or approaching a roadway, the greater your chance of avoiding a crash.
- Slow down when approaching a deer or other animal standing on the side of the road. The animal may “bolt” or change direction instantly, possibly onto the road.
- If a collision with the animal cannot be avoided, then brake firmly and don’t swerve to avoid striking it. Swerving increases the risk of injury by hitting another vehicle or fixed object.
- If you strike an animal, do not try to touch it. The frightened or injured animal, when attempting to move, could hurt you or further injury itself. The best procedure is to get off the road, and contact the local law enforcement.