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Ri$k Happens: Elk and bear and deer, Oh my!

by Mary Ann Gormly, loss analyst, ARA Insurance

Recently a delivery driver and his co-worker were on their way back to the rental store when they encountered an elk on the road. They came around a turn in the early evening hours and the large creature was there blocking most of their lane. There was nothing they could do and nowhere to go and they collided. Over the last few months drivers for rental stores insured by ARA Insurance have collided with deer, bear and most recently an elk.  

Even though there are times of the year when animals are more active than others, you can come across them on the roadways year-round. Encountering animals while driving on the road can be dangerous and scary.   

Here are some tips to avoid collisions with wildlife: 

  • Slow down Give yourself time to brake if an animal darts in your path, especially if you are driving in an area with high wildlife populations. Pay attention to those wildlife crossing signs. 
  • Use your eyes Don’t rely on hood whistles and other devices to scare animals away. The most effective way to avoid a collision is to keep your eyes on the road. At night, look for glowing eyes (“eye-shine”) of animals in the distance. Enlist your passengers to help you watch for wildlife on or near the road as well. 
  • Be mindful of peak areas and times Be on your highest alert at dusk and dawn when many animals are most active. Deer are most active between 6 and 9 p.m. — a time when most drivers find it difficult to see.  

And some things that can help if a collision is unavoidable: 

  • Stay in control If a collision is unavoidable, remain calm and do your best to keep control of the car. Swerving out of the way of wildlife can usually make things worse, causing you to lose control or possibly collide with another oncoming vehicle. Colliding with a tree or other vehicle causes more injuries than hitting an animal. 
  • Lean toward the door If you do hit a large animal, lean toward the door frame and not the center of the car. When animals are hit head-on, they tend to roll over the vehicle, crushing the center of the windshield and roof. 
  • Wear your seatbelt Severe injuries caused by deer-vehicle collisions can usually be avoided by wearing your seat belt. 

Sometimes collisions with animals cannot be avoided. If you hit an animal, move your car safely off the road and call the police or animal control. Don’t attempt to touch an injured animal. Photograph the scene, then call your insurance company when you get home. Damage from animal collisions is sometimes covered by auto insurance policies. 

This information was provided by the Farmers’ Almanac. 

This item, provided by ARA Insurance, Overland Park, Kan., contains safety tips and is intended to help readers better understand and manage risk. For more safety and risk management information, customers of ARA Insurance can log on to ReSource. Access is free, so if you haven’t signed up yet, contact your agent or call 800-821-6580.