The Federal Highway Administration database claims that the total number of reported collisions in the U.S. are around 300,000 per year, with many more going unreported for various reasons. Colliding with an animal is a traumatizing experience for all involved, and it's important that every driver knows what to do when it does. Here are some tips to avoid hitting animals in the first place, and how you should handle it if you do.
Hitting domestic animals is a risk for any driver; and in some areas of the country, colliding with wildlife is a serious possibility as well. To minimize your risk of hitting a larger animal, pay extra attention during the hours around sunrise and sunset, at night, and during peak seasons. Look for road signs to alert you of places where wildlife on the highway is more common. Scan the landscape for eyes or movement. Use your headlights and, when you can, your high beams. Honking can sometimes scare away animals if you do it early enough.
If you do find yourself on a collision course with a large animal, it is recommended that you do not swerve. Instead, put your foot on the brakes or stick to your current speed (but don't accelerate) and get your head out of the way of the windshield as much as possible before driving straight through the animal.
What to do if you hit a deer or other large animal:
- Make sure everyone is safe. Pull your car off the road and put on your hazard lights.
- Call the police. If you hit certain animals with your car, such as a dog, deer, goat, or pig, you are legally required to call the police. You should also call the police if anyone is injured or if another accident happened as a result of trying to avoid the animal.
- Stay away from the animal. Injured or frightened animals can be dangerous, so resist the urge to approach or help the animal. The only exception is if the animal is clearly dead, and it is possible to safely move the animal out of the way of traffic.
- Document the scene. When the scene is safe, it's a good idea to take pictures of the animal and any damage to your vehicle, in case you need to file an insurance claim.
- Contact your insurance company. If you have comprehensive coverage, it will probably cover collision with an animal. Your insurance agent can help you through the steps of filing a claim. You will also need to pay your deductible before any benefits kick in.
Accidents involving domestic animals:
If you hit a domestic animal, like a dog, cat or cow, you must call your local police or animal control or you may be in violation of the law. So even if you and your car are completely fine, stop and make the call. Just as with wildlife, injured dogs and cats can be dangerous: it's up to you whether you want to give first aid to an injured animal or wait for professional help to arrive. Talk to animal control if you need help deciding the best course of action. You may want to contact the animals owner, and in some states, it's required that you make an attempt. Use your best judgement to stay safe, and to do what you would want someone who hit your pet to do in the same situation.
For an auto insurance questions, call or contact Executive Insurance & Financial Services today.