Most drivers cannot imagine what they would do if an animal jumped out into the middle of the road. Some are acutely aware of animals in the road and avoid them at all costs, while others simply see them as road kill. With more than 1.5 million crashes involving deer each year, accidents involving animals are fairly common, and drivers have to make split second decisions in these situations. If you try to avoid a crossing animal, it is best to take caution before make sudden moves. A recent USA Today report indicates that drivers are generally safer if they fight the urge to swerve out of the way.
Russ Rader, a spokesman for the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) explained that drivers are generally safer by hitting the animal instead of swerving or making a difficult maneuver. Sudden moves could cause the driver to lose control of their vehicle and end up in a ravine, or they can lead to an accident with another vehicle.
The size of the animal matters most in making these decisions. If it is shorter than the hood of your car and you don’t have time take evasive action, keep driving. Most small animals will pass under your car anyway and avoid being killed by your tires. If it is taller than the hood, you can try to avoid it, but it still might be better to hit the animal. While your car may see some damage (the IIHS sees nearly $1 billion in vehicle damage each year) most drivers are injured in the crash that ensues after trying to avoid an animal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported 173 fatal crashes and 12,000 injury crashes involving animals in 2009, the last year such statistics were available.
Drivers can avoid animal accidents by driving at posted speeds, using high beams in remote areas and limiting in-car distractions such cellphones.