Tips for avoiding an animal collision

October 14, 2013 12:00 AM

Drivers will usually do their best to keep their vehicle in tip-top shape, and that means keeping it out of harm's way for as long as possible. While a large part of this may stem from defensive driving, motorists also need to be aware of the threat that wild animals could pose to their vehicles, and vice versa. Collisions with animals can result in costly auto repair, not to mention personal harm to you or the animal. 

"A driver may encounter any number of scenarios at any given moment behind the wheel," said Dr. William Van Trassel, manager of AAA's driver training programs. "Remaining alert and limiting distractions is a must. Animals are unpredictable, so the sooner you see them in the roadway, the more time you will have to safely react." 

Here are a few tips for avoiding animal collisions: 

Know their patterns
Knowing where and when to look for animals is a smart way to avoid collisions. Dusk and dawn are popular times for animals to be out and active, especially large creatures like deer, so you may want to pay particular attention to driving during these hours. With less visibility and potentially less traffic, there's also a greater chance that you won't be warned of animals in your path until the last minute. 

Scan the area
You should be on the lookout for animals at all times of the day. Be sure you are scanning the entire area every so often, especially if you are driving in spaces that are surrounded by trees and foliage that could be hiding animals. Even if you see an animal on the side of the road, you should be aware as you drive through the region, as many move in groups and could have companions not too far away. 

Similarly, if you are making a turn or going around a curve, be sure to decrease your speed. There could be animals hidden out of your line of vision or the sound of your car could startle them from their habitat, and slowing down ensures you have more time to react. 

Upgrade your vehicle's features
There are a few things you can do to your vehicle that will help avoid collisions in the long run. For example, simply taking a car in for scheduled maintenance to make sure everything is functioning at a high level allows you to stay on top of things like brake repair. You should also get your lights checked. Headlights can improve visibility of the road ahead, while tail lights that do their job alert other drivers as to when you have to make a stop due to animals in the road. If possible, you should be using high beams when driving at night - providing there is no other traffic around - so checking on the performance of this feature is also necessary. 

Invest in brake repair
One of the most important aspects of your car that needs to performing at a high level is the brakes. Not only are they essential for the everyday functions of a vehicle, but they are necessary for avoiding collisions. That makes getting brake service incredibly important. 

If you see an animal run out on the road in front of you, you shouldn't try to swerve out of the way. Instead, you should calmly but forcefully apply the brakes and stay in your lane. Swerving can cause you to collide with other cars or obstacles, which can result in greater damage and car repair than hitting the animal. You also run the risk of colliding with creatures as they try to get away. 

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