Everyone has seen a squirrel, bird, deer, or some sort of creature while driving. Here in Massachusetts, those are some of the most common animals we encounter on the road, along with possums, cats, foxes, and more. Collisions with these animals are unfortunate and some, such as collisions with deer, can be outright dangerous. Curiously, collisions with deer and other animals are not considered "collisions, but rather "comprehensive" here in Massachusetts.
According to data recently released by Farmers Insurance, 36% of auto insurance claims with animals happen between September and November. So be especially vigilant in the fall.
Here are some tips to avoid wild animal crashes.
1. Look for the eyes of an animal, especially at night. Just the other day after work, I was driving home and saw two glowing yellow circles to my left. I slowed down, and sure enough, a small mammal was on the road. (Light reflects back from many animals' eyes because of the tapetum lucidum, a part of the eye that helps nocturnal creatures see better at night)
2. Keep your car windshield and mirrors clean so you have no trouble seeing the animals.
3. If you see one animal, slow down and proceed slowly. It is common for animals such as deer and turkey to travel in groups (deer in a herd, and turkeys in a gang, or rafter), so if you see one, there's a good chance you will see more.
4. DO NOT SWERVE. Even if you can't see any more cars or creatures in another lane, accidents often occur when drivers swerve to avoid animals. Brake as you need to, and come to a stop if necessary to let them pass. At least here in New England we don't have many really huge animals like cattle ranging our highways, but a mature deer can total your car and put passengers in the hospital.
5. BE AWARE of your surroundings before SLAMMING THE BRAKES...unless the animal is big enough to caused damage or redirect your vehicle. While you may feel guilty for hitting a squirrel, for example, by slamming the brakes to save its life, you may cause a driver behind you to rear end your car. While sad, sometimes it's better to hit the animal and avoid a multi-car collision or collision with a tree or stone wall.
6. Pay attention to signs warning of animal activity in the area. These signs are often put there after other collisions.
7. Wearing a seat belt greatly decreases the chances of fatalities in deer-car collisions.
8. If you do hit an animal, do not approach it, as an injured wild animal could hurt you. Pull over to the side of the road, put on your emergency flashers, and call the local police (or emergency services if people are hurt). Report the incident to your insurance agent as soon as possible.
Remember: An accident with a deer (or other animal) is NOT considered a collision: it is covered under "Comprehensive". Don't know why, but that's the way it is here in Massachusetts.
Overall, the best way to avoid animal collisions is to be alert and drive the speed limit. Be on the lookout especially in wildlife areas (the woods in Norwell count!) and in neighborhoods with children and pets. Drive safely!