How many times have you been driving, and you come upon an animal standing in the middle of the road? And how many times has that animal simply stood still, instead of walking, jumping, or slithering out of harm’s way?
Whereas a person would have the presence of mind to think, “If that car hits me, I’m basically pudding,” an animal can’t quite grasp the concept. One minute they’re scampering through the forest, the next they’re frozen still, thinking, “I wonder if that bright light is a predator. I bet if I stand really still they won’t even see me.”
It’s not that the critters have a death wish—far from it. They actually freeze as to remain undetected—a great tactic if you’re on the shoulder, not so effective if you’re in the middle of the road.
HOW DO I AVOID THE ANIMAL?
It’s simple—good driving practices are your best defense. It’s always good to keep your skills sharp by taking an online defensive driving course, as well.
But if you do encounter an animal in the road, don’t swerve to avoid it. This puts you in considerably higher danger, as you could lose control of your vehicle and hit a tree. The safest thing to do, for both you and the animal, is to grip the wheel tightly, and slow to a stop as quickly and safely as possible.
WHAT DO I DO IF I HIT AN ANIMAL?
This is always the first thing people wonder after it happens. It’s important to know that there are two very different answers, depending on what you hit.
If you happen to strike a dog or cat, or someone’s pet, you have to stop. If you don’t, you could be cited for cruelty to animals. If the animal is alive, try to move it out of the road. Chances are, the animal will be in shock (wouldn’t you?), so if you have a blanket, try to get the animal on the blanket and use that to carry them out of harm’s way.
The next thing to do is call 911. They will put you through to Animal Services, who in turn can tell you what to do. Finally, you should try to locate the animal’s owner. If it was your pet, wouldn’t you want to know what happened?
If you happen to hit a wild animal, it’s very important to do the opposite. While your instinct may be to console the dying creature, you have no idea how it will react. If the animal is already in considerable pain, having a human around will provide no comfort. The animal will be even more frightened by your presence.
There’s another very important reason not to approach an animal you’ve struck—it could be really dangerous for you. Despite your best intentions, the injured animal could lash out and hurt you. A deer’s hooves, antlers, and powerful back legs are all powerful enough to kill you.
THE DANGERS OF HITTING A DEER
- There are more than 1.5 million accidents involving deer each year.
- More than 10,000 people are injured as a result of deer accidents.
- The average deer-vehicle collision results in $2000 in damages.
- Deer accidents claim the lives of 2,000 people annually.
Texas, in particular, is at risk for deer accidents. Between the years of 1997 and 2007, animal-vehicle collisions claimed the lives of 227 Texans—the largest number in the nation. Deer were involved in three out of four animal-vehicle accidents.
If you have the means (and the stomach), should you finish the dying animal’s life? There’s really no clear answer for this. Some people think it’s merciful, while others consider it barbaric. Most people just can’t bring themselves to do it, regardless of how they feel morally.
Fortunately, if you keep your driving skills polished with an online defensive driving course, you may never have to find out.