Avoiding Animals When Driving

Spring is here and that means animals will begin to come out of their burrows, trees and holes and bask in the warming sun. Unfortunately, that also means an increase in the risk of drivers hitting animals soaking up the heat of the road.

According to The Endangered Wildlife Trust, the mortality of wildlife due to collision with vehicles in Africa is the fifth greatest threat to carnivores. Aside from the general distractions, we urge drivers to be more vigilent of animals over the next few weeks.

Arrive Alive have put together these great tips for drivers.

Tips for motorists

There is no foolproof way to keep animals away from the roads. Hoofed mammals that stand high on their legs, such as cattle, horses and antelope such as kudu pose the most danger to vehicle occupants. If they are hit they can roll onto the bonnet and into the windshield or roof, resulting in extensive damage and serious or fatal injury. Due to their height, their eyes are above most headlight beams.

There are a few suggestions that could assist in protecting motorists:

  • Take special care near animal crossing warning signs or signs warning of the absence of fences. The signs are there for a reason.
  • Minimize your distractions from passengers, food, and accessories like cell phones. If your full attention is on the road, you'll be more likely to spot approaching animals with your peripheral vision.
  • Get in the habit of scanning the roadside as you drive.
  • Vigilance is the first and best defense, especially when driving on unfamiliar rural roads. Ask passengers to help by scanning both sides of the roadway.
  • If you see one animal, expect that there are others nearby.
  • Use your high beams whenever possible. They will give you more time to spot and react to animals in the road.
  • Always obey the speed limit and wear safety belts
  • To protect themselves, defensive drivers adapt their speed to conditions and keep alert for wildlife. Read more about defensive driving HERE.
  • Slowing down a little gives you and the animal more time to react – Be especially cautious at night
  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Be especially watchful in areas near woods and water
  • If you see a large animal near the road and think you have time to avoid hitting it, reduce your speed, tap your brakes to warn other drivers and sound your horn.
  • If the animal is in your path, brake firmly but do not swerve to avoid it. Sound your horn in a series of short bursts to frighten it away. Provided you can slow down with control, steer around the animal but stay on the road if possible. Watch out for oncoming traffic.
  • If a collision seems inevitable, don't swerve to avoid the animal; your risk of injury may be greater if you do. Maintain control of the vehicle. Report the accident to the police and your insurance company.
  • Always consider if the land along the road could host large animals, and if you think it could, anticipate that they might run out into the road. It's much easier to anticipate animal encounters and be ready to react calmly than to deal with the costly expenses, injuries, and guilty conscience of a collision.

According to Arrive Alive, even though the behavior of animals might be unpredictable, there is much safety to be found in preventative measures and community involvement. It is required that farmers and land owners adequately protect road users by looking after fences and gates.