After months of cold temperatures, snow, and ice, the resurgence of warm weather in spring often comes as a relief. This season is marked by wildflowers and greenery, as well as more and more sightings of Pennsylvania’s wide array of wildlife.
All these signs of spring can be a welcoming indication that the long winter months are soon to be far behind. Longer days with more hours of sunlight are not necessarily a guarantee that you will be safer behind the wheel, though. While driving is certainly safer during daylight hours, as wildlife becomes more active, they can create additional daytime driving hazards.
If you’re worried about spring wildlife collisions, Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco has compiled their best tips for avoiding crashes when there are animals on the road.
Types of Wildlife on Philadelphia Roads
Pennsylvania is a beautiful, geographically diverse state that features rivers, wetlands, lakes, and forests that all kinds of wildlife call home. When traveling through our gorgeous state, you can encounter any of 480 species of wild mammals and birds, including:
- Deer, elk, and other hooved animals
Wildlife isn’t strictly located in rural areas, though. Coyotes, wild turkeys, falcons, and multiple breeds of snakes have been found in the suburbs and urban areas of Philadelphia. Remember to never approach wildlife regardless of where you find it. Wildlife can carry diseases that are harmful or even potentially fatal to humans, including rabies. If you stumble upon an injured wild animal or are concerned that an animal is stuck in a harmful situation, call your local Pennsylvania Game Commission office for guidance.
How To Avoid Spring Wildlife While Driving
While there are many tactics you can employ to avoid spring wildlife collisions, the most important is to be alert. You should remain focused on the road the entire time you are driving. Keep your phone silenced and out of reach, turn down any music to a reasonable volume, and avoid eating while you are behind the wheel. Limit any distractions that can steal your attention away from the task at hand.
Remaining alert to your surroundings will lay the groundwork for every additional step to avoiding wildlife car crashes:
- Familiarize yourself with peak locations and seasons. You are more likely to encounter a bear while driving in rural locations than you are while traveling on I-76. Knowing where wildlife is most likely to saunter onto the road will help you be extra vigilant and alert as you drive. You’ll also need to think about what time of year it is. Moose tend to be most active in the fall, while you might be more likely to encounter deer between October and January. Springtime is especially dangerous because wildlife and their young are on the go.
- Learn about peak hours. Aside from locations and seasons, wildlife also tends to be most active during specific times. You are most likely to encounter wildlife on the road at dawn and dusk. Visibility during these hours is already tricky enough without throwing in obstacles and hazards like wildlife along the way.
- Slow down. You should slow down when driving through areas known for wildlife during peak seasons and hours. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) it takes the average driver about .75 seconds to react to something like a deer in the road. After taking note of the wildlife in the road, it takes the same amount of time to decide whether to press on the brake pedal. When traveling at 55 mph, once you do apply the brake, it will take about 4.5 seconds over 144 feet before your vehicle actually comes to a stop. From the time you notice wildlife in the road until the time you stop, you will have traveled 265 feet. It takes even longer when road conditions are less than ideal, like when it is snowing. When you slow down, you give yourself more time to react and stop for any wildlife in the road.
- Use your high beams. Your high beams are an invaluable asset when traveling in rural or under-traveled areas that are prone to wildlife. These bright lights are more likely to scare off wildlife than your regular headlights. Ideally, only use your high beam headlights when it is night, or you are otherwise unable to see a sufficient amount of the road. Do not use your headlights when following another vehicle, and turn them off when an oncoming vehicle is within 500 feet.
- Drive in the center lane. Whenever you are traveling on multi-lane highways and are worried about potential wildlife, use the center-most lanes. When you drive in an outer lane close to the shoulder or the edge of the road, you are at higher risk for colliding with grazing deer or other hooved animals.
- Get ready to use your horn. When you spot a wild animal that looks like it might dart into the road or an animal that is already occupying your lane, you can honk your horn to try to encourage it to move along. Do this in conjunction with slowing down and coming to a full stop—never rely on honking your horn or flashing your high beams alone to get wildlife moving. Slowing down, honking your horn, and flashing your high beams will also alert other nearby drivers to the presence of a hazard on the road.
What To Do if You Are Involved in a Wildlife Collision
You could do everything right and still end up the victim of a wildlife car accident. If this happens, you should:
- Pull over
- Alert the police if there is an obstruction in the road
- Call the Pennsylvania Game Commission if you suspect the involved wildlife is injured but alive
- Take photos of your vehicle and the accident scene
- Contact your insurance company
- Get medical help as soon as possible
Talking to your insurance company after a wildlife collision can be stressful. Since there is no other driver who might be held liable for any resulting damages or injuries, your own insurance company will be responsible for covering the costs. Do not count on your auto insurer to do the right thing just because you pay your monthly premiums.
As a business, your insurance company is likely more focused on its bottom line than your health and well-being. At Shrager, Sachs, & Blanco, we know that you need the right help, and we work tirelessly to make sure our clients receive the compensation they need to address the full scope of their injuries. We would be glad to discuss your options for securing compensation during your free consultation, so be sure to contact us today.