Winter Car Accident Stats: Collisions with Wild Animals
Wildlife poses a significant threat to drivers, particularly during the winter months when the days are short and the nights are long. Mississippi is in the top ten states at risk for wildlife-vehicle collisions. A report by the Mississippi Department of Transportation stated that there were 3,800 reported collisions with deer in 2021. The report also indicated that collisions with deer don’t always occur in the autumn months and drivers should always be prepared to avoid wildlife collisions.
Below, we discuss statistics related to this occurrence and how to protect yourself on dark roads.
How Many Car Accidents Are Caused by Animals?
Motor vehicle collisions with wildlife are severely under-reported with the last major report published in 2008. Still, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates one to two million collisions occur annually, with this number increasing by more than 6,000 collisions each year. The most common time for a wildlife-vehicle collision is during October and November, particularly in the morning and evening. Animals are typically active during dawn and dusk, which coincides with peak commuting times and traffic volume, leading to a higher risk of collision. The fall months are also during hunting seasons, creating collision hot spots as animals move to avoid hunters.
Although eighty-nine percent of wildlife-vehicle collisions occur on two-lane roads, this does not mean they only occur on rural or country roads. Wildlife vehicle collisions typically happen in areas where many people live and commute to work in nearby cities. In fact, drivers in the U.S. use two-lane roads for most of the total highway miles they travel. Collisions with larger animals, primarily deer-vehicle collisions, can have serious consequences. Approximately 4-10% of these collisions result in injuries to drivers, which amounts to around 26,000 injuries per year.
What Animal Causes the Most Car Accidents?
Deer collisions account for most collisions with wild animals (close to 90% in some states, according to the FHWA’s report). Moose, elk, coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and opossums are also common culprits. One reason for the high number of deer collisions is seasonal migration routes commonly intersect with roadways and vehicle traffic. Additionally, urban and suburban development reduces deer’s natural habitat, forcing them to cross streets in search of food and shelter.
How to Reduce Wildlife Vehicle Collisions With Wild Animals
Not only is human safety a concern, but the cost is significant to local wildlife and conservation efforts. Some species have experienced major threats and even been placed on the endangered species list due to vehicle collisions, including the Hawaiian goose, the desert tortoise, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the California tiger salamander. Preventing vehicle collisions with animals is the responsibility of transportation authorities, as well as the driver.
Local Transportation Authority and Mitigation Measures
There are several measures that local transportation authorities should take to reduce collisions with wildlife. One such step is installing wildlife fencing. However, this fencing must give animals safe crossing opportunities to access habitats on the other side of the road. Otherwise, large animals may try to break through the barrier.
Other measures include installing signage on the road that indicates wildlife population and the number of miles ahead that such animals may be present. Roads should also be designed to provide safe wildlife crossings and reduce collisions. Ideally, a wildlife crossing would be installed along migration corridors, so it does not disrupt the animal’s seasonal migration routes.
How Drivers Can Avoid Collisions With an Animal
The best way for drivers to protect themselves is by being aware of their surroundings and mindful of animals in the area. Therefore, it’s essential to keep these three tips in mind:
- Slow down and scan. It’s up to the motorist to drive cautiously on dark, winding roads and keep an eye on the side of the road where many animals may be waiting to cross. Watch out for animals’ eyes that often shine in the dark, and drive cautiously if you see the animal crossing warning sign.
- Wear protective gear. If you’re in a car, wear your seatbelt, and if you’re driving a motorcycle, always wear a helmet. Unfortunately, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) reports that 60% of people in fatal crashes involving an animal were not wearing a seatbelt, and 65% of motorcyclists killed were not wearing helmets.
- Don’t swerve. Most deaths and serious human injuries did not occur during the collision with an animal but with how the driver reacted to the animal. If you swerve to avoid even larger animals, you can run into a tree or other car instead. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recommends staying in your lane and applying the brakes firmly if a collision is unavoidable.
Despite all of these safety measures, accidents may still happen. After a collision with an animal, put on your hazards or use emergency flares to warn other drivers. If you’re hurt, call the emergency number immediately. If the animal is injured or dead, call the non-emergency number and relay the animal’s condition, location, and whether it poses a traffic hazard.
If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident with a wild animal, our Mississippi personal injury attorneys are here to help. Contact us for a free consultation today!