Shorter days and cooler temperatures are signaling to the critters of New Mexico that winter is coming, so they’re preparing for a long winter’s nap. Their preparations mean they are more active, and more likely to cross your (paved) path. For the safety of you, your passengers, others on the road and the animals, know how to prevent animal-related crashes and how to minimize damage when you can’t.
What Am I Looking For?
While there’s not much wildlife darting across I-25 or downtown streets (bar hoppers don’t count), as you get closer to the mountains or volcanoes, rabbits, deer and coyotes aren’t exactly uncommon. And if you’re heading across the state, there’s a chance you may encounter elk, antelope and even bears and cougars.
You should keep your eyes peeled for all types of animals, including domestics, but statistically speaking, the biggest threat to drivers are deer. Deer are most active during fall and winter months (mating and migration season) between 6 pm and 9 pm. Undeniably cute, deer are not known to be the smartest of animals—they have no concept of crosswalks, speed, timing or the (literally) crushing consequences of 2,000+ pounds x 65+ mph.
For the safety of everyone on the roads and the security of a low(er) insurance premium, it’s always best to avoid any accidents. To avoid accidents caused by animals, there are a few practical tips:
- WATCH! Animal crossing signs like this:indicate places where accidents have been caused by animals in the roadways. Looking out for wildlife means that in addition to paying attention to the road ahead and periodically checking your mirrors you should also be scanning the sides of the road for wildlife.
- SLOW DOWN! Panicked animals on the side of the road will not necessarily run away from oncoming traffic, and they can dart in front of your hood in a split second. Animals already in the act of crossing do not understand that you’re in a hurry, so do not assume that at the rate they are crossing and the rate you are going that they will be safely out of your way by the time you get to where you first spotted them.
Sometimes, we just don’t see animals coming, and many of the accidents that follow are actually caused by swerving to avoid hitting the animal. Sudden direction changes may put you directly in the path of a neighboring or oncoming vehicle, or they may cause you to lose control of your own vehicle, putting you at the mercy of whatever is in your path. To minimize the damage caused by wily wildlife:
- DON’T SWERVE unless you are absolutely certain that there are no other cars around. Most people do not have time to check, so it’s best to resist pulling the wheel and steer straight ahead.
- If the animal in your path is lower than your hood, BRAKE.
- If the animal in your path is taller than your hood (i.e. deer, elk and bear), let your foot off the accelerator, but do not slam on your brakes. Braking lowers the hood, making it more likely that the animal will slide above your hood and into your windshield. If you hit the animal with your car level, your hood will crumple and airbag deploy. The latter is more likely to minimize injury.
In addition to driving tactics, there are devices, like deer whistles, to help scare wildlife away from the roadways.
In the Event of an Accident
If a collision with an animal is unavoidable, know how to minimize the damage and danger to yourself and others. If there are no human injuries and your car is drivable, move your vehicle to the side of the road. Look for oncoming traffic before moving into the road to assess the situation. If you have flares (which you should if you put together your emergency kit like we told you to), set them out to alert oncoming drivers of the obstacle.
If you hit a domestic animal (dog or cat) and you suspect it is still alive, cover it with a blanket before attempting to move it. Animals in pain will lash out, but the blanket can protect you from scratching and biting. If the animal is dead, it is better to move it out of the road to prevent other drivers from swerving around it and potentially causing another accident. If there are houses nearby, check to see if the animal belonged to anyone in the area.
If you hit a large wild animal, do not approach it or try to move it yourself. From the safety of your vehicle, call the local police or sheriff’s office for help and wait until they arrive.
If your car is not drivable, contact the police ASAP to file an accident report and call your roadside assistance provider for a tow.
After an animal-related accident, Quanz Advanced Auto Body is ready to provide quality collision repair.