Part of living and driving in Alberta is dealing with wildlife on our roads. Unfortunately, there is a serious risk involved in sharing our roads with wildlife and on average 6 people die each year due to wildlife collisions in Alberta.
Every hour, there are an average of between 6 and 8 large animal collisions in Canada, and Alberta has one of the highest rates with over 323 wildlife collisions resulting in injury each year. Due to the fact that we border the Canadian Rockies, we are at a greater risk due to the increased number of animals present. It is important to know the risks and understand what we can do to help mitigate the risk of wildlife collisions in Alberta.
While encountering wildlife on the roads in Alberta has become expected, there are some things that drivers can use to reduce their risk of collisions in Alberta.
Often, animals seem to act very erratically when in danger, which can make it hard to predict what they will do next. This is directly related to their fight-or-flight response.
Animals, much like humans, have a particular amount of space in which they feel safe, but when that space becomes too small, or if they are startled, they often become unpredictable.
It is also important to understand that many animals travel in groups. Deer, bears, and mother-offspring pairs are often found traveling together. So, if you see one of these animals crossing the road, chances are that others may follow.
Keep in mind that even if an animal sees your vehicle coming, they may still jump in front of you, and just because they have already crossed the road it doesn’t mean they won’t turn and cross it again.
People often wonder why deer seem to jump or swerve in front of oncoming vehicles. Well, evolution has programmed deer to run in a twisting or dodging motion to help avoid predators, and this is why deer may suddenly leap in front of a vehicle.
But, what about the fact that man animals seem attracted to the roads, despite the traffic and danger? Humans understand the dangers of highways and roadways, but wildlife may simply see a clear, wide-open space. It is also common for wildlife to be attracted to the salts that accumulate on the side of the road, as well as the easier passage provided by cleared roads in the winter, and the relief from insects due to the open wind in the summer.
Now that you know a little bit more about why wildlife is often found near the roadside, and how they may react to oncoming vehicles, let’s go over a few tips for reducing the risk of wildlife collisions in Alberta.
Tips & Tricks For Avoiding Wildlife Collisions In Alberta
Watch for the road signs
Wildlife warning signs (yellow diamond-shaped signs) have been strategically placed based on high wildlife traffic areas.
These signs are meant to act as a warning of a possible hazard ahead and should provide a cue to be extra cautious.
Although these signs do not require you to slow down (unless also accompanied by a speed limit), you should be prepared to reduce your speed based on the conditions.
Reduce Your Speed
It is a fact that speed is one of the most common factors in motor vehicle collisions. Speeding results in taking longer to stop, and greatly reduces your ability to react safely to hazards on the road. Furthermore, the greater the speed the greater the force of impact.
Over 60% of wildlife collisions occur during daylight, and nearly 90% occur in good weather conditions. We tend to be more cautious when road conditions or visibility are poor, but it is equally important to remain cautious when driving conditions are optimal.
Take your time, set your cruise control, and pay attention!
It can be very useful to think about and predict what your reaction might be if an animal were to suddenly jump out in front of you.
Think about and rehearse how you will avoid a wildlife encounter. That way, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to react you will be better prepared. This will decrease your reaction time and reduce the chance of panicking.
Be A Defensive Driver
Everyone in the vehicle should be actively watching for wildlife. Make sure you are keeping an eye on the road, the ditch, and the shoulder on both sides of the road.
Watching for movement along the side of the road, as well as the glare or shine of an animals eyes can be two of the best ways to spot wildlife.
Another sign that there are animals on the road is the apparent flickering of headlights, tailings, or roadside reflectors, which can signal an animal crossing the road. These are excellent signs to watch for, especially at dusk and dawn, when light levels are low and wildlife is active.
Making unsafe evasive maneuvers can actually be more dangerous than making contact with a small animal. Serious accidents can occur when drivers lose control of their vehicles in an attempt to avoid wildlife. Remember that swerving may result in your vehicle moving into oncoming traffic or hitting the ditch.
If a smaller animal like a deer is in your path, consider using your brakes, instead of your steering wheel. If a larger animal like a moose is in your path, swerving is most likely your best option.
Maintain Your Vehicle
It is always important to maintain your vehicle and ensure that your headlights, taillights, and signal lights are clean, visible, and in good working order. Keep your headlights properly aligned to ensure you maximize road illumination and avoid blinding oncoming traffic.
Make sure your tires, brakes, and restraints are all in good working order and remember to clean your windshield, both inside and out, on a regular basis to avoid glare and ensure maximum visibility. Don’t forget to check and either replace or repair damaged windshield wiper blades, particularly in the winter months.
What To Do If You ARE Going To Crash
Sometimes a crash is inevitable. If you are unable to react safely to avoid striking an animal you should try to aim for where the animal is coming from, not where it is going. Focus on looking where you are going, and not at the animal itself as it is human nature to drive where you look.
If you are absolutely going to hit an animal, try to avoid a head-on collision and attempt to simply glance the animal. Apply your brakes quickly and firmly and steer your vehicle smoothly to make contact with the animal at an angle.
Release the brakes just before contact as this will raise the front of your vehicle and reduce the chances of the animal crashing through your windshield.
If a crash with a moose is unavoidable, crouch as low as you possibly can in your seat as moose are very heavy and often crush the roof of a vehicle during a collision.
What To Do If You Are Involved In A Wildlife Collision
Be mindful of your own safety, as well as other passengers and travelers. Your reaction must be dependant on the type and condition of the road, the type of animal, the severity of the crash, and the amount of traffic.
Pull of the road in such a way that your vehicle is not a hazard for other drivers, turn on your hazard lights, and if possible try to illuminate the animal with your headlights.
Remember that wounded animals can be very dangerous, so be very cautious in approaching any wildlife that has been involved in a collision. If the animal is deceased, poses a threat to other drives, and you are able to move it safely off the road, you may choose to do so. Only do is if it is safe and you are physically capable.
Call 911 if there are any injuries or serious damages to your vehicle. It is also important that you call the Conservation Officer Service in order to report the location of the collision. This will help officials remove road kill and monitor injured wildlife.
Note that leaving a dead animal on the side of the road with no report could cause other animals to be attracted to the location and cause more accidents.
Unfortunately, wildlife collisions do happen no matter how prepared and cautiously drivers operate their vehicles. Things like erratic animal behavior, overgrown plant life, and drive error can all cause an accident.
If you are involved in a wildlife collision, no matter how minor, it is always best to contact your local auto body shop and have your vehicle properly diagnosed. Avoid the safety concerns that come along with vehicle damage and have it fixed by an expert technician.
If you are experiencing any issues with your vehicle, or if you need auto body repairs, contact Southern Auto Body today for a quote.