Published Saturday 12 July 2014
Safe driving advocates are quick to point out the dangers of distracted driving, excessive speeding and driving while intoxicated.
While these messages are important and need to be reinforced, a safe driving message that rarely gets discussed is the risk that wildlife poses to drivers on our roadways.
Between 2009 and 2013, almost 60,000 wildlife collisions were reported to the OPP, resulting in 19 deaths and 2,200 serious injuries.
Even small wildlife can triggers accidents. In a recent high-profile case, a Canadian woman was convicted of two counts of criminal negligence causing death for stopping to help baby ducks on the road.
Colliding with an animal can be a traumatic experience. A few years ago, while driving in cottage country, a black bear jumped in front my car and I had to brake suddenly to avoid hitting it. The bear was close enough to read the serial numbers on my tires.
I've talked to many drivers who have hit animals while driving and they describe their experience as unsettling, to say the least. Not only does a vehicle sustain damage when it hits an animal; drivers and passengers may suffer injuries as well.
In addition to vehicle damage and personal injuries, colliding with a deer or a moose usually results in a mangled, dead or dying animal lying beside your car, which can leave motorists feeling distressed. Anyone who has experienced such an accident doesn't forget it.
Although deer and moose crossings signs appear on roads throughout the province, wildlife can appear anywhere and at any time. Deer crossing signs merely indicate areas of frequent sightings. Drivers still need to be cautious on all roadways, especially when driving at dawn, dusk, and nighttime.
Safe driving advice for avoiding hitting an animal boils down to common sense. In other words, scan the road ahead, drive defensively, watch your speed and slow down in posted deer-crossing areas.
When driving at night, keep windshield and headlights clean, and use high beams whenever possible. When driving in rural areas, maintain a heightened sense of awareness for animals at all times.
There are consumer products that claim to prevent vehicles from hitting wildlife. Vehicle-mounted deer whistles are inexpensive and produce ultrasonic frequencies that warn deer of approaching vehicles. Some motorists say that deer whistles work fine, but scientific testing has proved inconclusive.
If you see a deer on or beside the road, other deer are likely nearby, as they often travel in groups. When approaching wildlife, brake firmly, but avoid swerving your vehicle, which could lead to a loss of control of the vehicle.
If you hit a deer, moose or elk, report it to the police or Ministry of Natural Resources. Take pictures of your vehicle to assist in the insurance claims process. Obviously, if anyone is seriously injured, call 911 immediately.
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, 68 per cent of Canadians think that their auto insurance covers damage to their vehicles if they hit some form of wildlife. If the animal was in motion when the collision occurred, it's considered a 'comprehensive' claim. The driver would be not-at-fault, but would have to pay the comprehensive deductible.
On the other hand, if a driver hits a stationary animal, it would likely be considered a collision claim, and the driver would be deemed at-fault.
Check with your insurance provider about the level of coverage on your vehicle. And visit your new car dealership website, which often contains instructions on what to do in the event of a collision, as well as downloadable collision centre apps.
Whether you are driving to cottages, campgrounds or exploring the scenic beauty of Ontario this summer, please drive safely and be aware of the potential dangers of wildlife.