It’s Bear-able! 6 Things You Should Do If You Hit an Animal on the Road

By Monique Hutson
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Every driver has probably considered the potential of a collision with another vehicle and you do your best to navigate the roads safely in order to avoid one. But, what if you cross paths with a bear, moose, or deer? Collisions with large animals are not as rare as you may think. Every year in Canada, it is estimated that there are 45,000 collisions involving large animals alone.

Another consideration is whether or not your auto insurance covers damages to your car if you hit an animal. Will you be covered for the repair costs for this type of collision or will you be left to pick up the bill?

Tips to avoid a wildlife accident

Whether you live in a city or in the countryside, all drivers need to be ready for the potential that they may come upon an animal on the road. The following tips will help you prepare should you encounter wildlife while driving:

  • Pay attention to posted wildlife signs. These signs have been placed in areas where wildlife is commonly spotted.
  • Follow the speed limit. Your speed is key to being able to brake safely in response to an animal unexpectedly crossing the street.
  • Slow down at night and when visibility is diminished.
  • Be especially cautious at dawn and dusk and during the fall and spring seasons as these are the times when wildlife is more likely to be seen roadside.
  • Scan the road edges and shoulders for animals about to cross the road. If you see an animal, be on the lookout for more nearby as they rarely travel alone.
  • If an animal appears on the road ahead, do your best to slow down and stop if necessary and safe. Turn on your hazards as an alert to other drivers.
  • Never leave your vehicle with the intent to help the animal safely cross the road.
  • If an animal has crossed the road without incident, be ready should they turn around. It’s not uncommon for an animal to be spooked from passing vehicles and attempt to return from where they came.
  • In general, avoid swerving as this can lead to loss of control and an even more serious collision with other vehicles on the road putting other drivers at risk as well.
  • If a crash is inevitable, try for glancing blow to lessen the impact.

What to do if you’ve hit an animal

Despite your best efforts, if you find yourself in a collision with an animal, the Wildlife Roadsharing Resource Centre (a Traffic Injury Research Foundation project) offers the following tips:

  1. Pull over to a safe location, out of the way of oncoming vehicles, and turn on your hazards.
  2. Call 9-1-1 if you or any of your passengers are injured.
  3. Hitting an animal can be traumatic. Take the time needed to calm down and clear your head so that you can properly assess the situation.
  4. Never touch an injured animal, even if it seems harmless. It's hurt and scared which may be a dangerous combination.
  5. Call the local police if the animal is blocking traffic or is creating a hazard for other drivers. If it is safe to do so, set out roadside reflectors or flares if you have them.
  6. If your car is unsafe to drive, call for a tow. Look for broken lights, leaking fluids or anything that could make driving your vehicle dangerous.

How do car insurance companies handle wildlife collisions?

A collision with an animal, such as deer, can leave a considerable amount of damage to your car. If you purchased the optional collision and comprehensive coverage when you got your car insurance policy, the costs for the damage will likely be covered.

Collision coverage provides protection if your car is damaged in an accident, while comprehensive provides coverage for non-accident related damage claims: both have a deductible.

Which coverage applies however, will depend on the nature of the collision:

  • Scenario 1: If a deer was lying dead in the roadway from a previous collision but you happened to hit it, your collision coverage will likely apply as there’s an expectation that you should have seen it in time to react and safely avoid the resulting accident.
  • Scenario 2: If a deer should suddenly run onto the road and you hit it, there would be little you could do to avoid it. Therefore, your comprehensive coverage would typically apply.

Remember, these are optional coverages, so ensure that you opt in to protect yourself from an unexpected wildlife collision. Be sure to compare rates to find the best car insurance options to make your drive more bear-able.

Updated to ensure relevancy to the season.

What to do If You Hit an Animal While Driving

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