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? Collisions with animals – big or small – are not as rare as you may think.
Another consideration is whether or not your auto insurance covers damages to your car if you hit an animal. Will you be covered for this type of collision, or will you be left to pick up the roadkill…bill?
So I’ve hit a bear – what should I do now?
Despite your best efforts, if you find yourself in a collision with an animal, here are some tips:
- Pull over to a safe location, out of the way of oncoming vehicles, and turn on your hazard lights.
- Call 9-1-1 if someone is injured.
- Never touch an injured animal, even if it seems harmless. It’s hurt and scared which may be dangerous combination.
- Call the local police if the animal is blocking traffic or is creating a hazard for other drivers.
- If your car is unsafe to drive, call for a tow. Check for broken lights, leaking fluids or anything that could make driving your vehicle dangerous.
- Document any damages to your vehicle and report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible. They will advise you on how to proceed.
Tips to avoid a wildlife accident
Across Canada, collisions with wildlife are common. In British Columbia for example, it’s estimated that every year there are about 9,900 crashes where an animal is involved; in Alberta, it’s estimated to be about 14,000; in Ontario, more than 10,000; and, in Quebec about 6,700. Wildlife on the road can be tricky to navigate, especially when they appear so suddenly. If you come across an animal on the road, there are some steps you can take to avoid an accident:
- Follow speed limits and pay attention to posted wildlife signs. Your speed is key to braking safely in response to an animal unexpectedly crossing the street.
- Slow down at night and times of low-light when visibility is diminished. Moose, elk and deer are particularly active at dawn and dusk during the spring and fall.
- 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.
- One of the biggest mistakes a driver can make when they see wildlife on the road is to focus on the animal instead of the lane ahead. Focus your attention on where you want to go, not on the animal.
- If an animal appears in the road ahead, do your best to slow down and stop if necessary and safe. Avoid swerving as this can lead to loss of control and an even more serious collision with other vehicles on the road, putting others at risk. And never leave your vehicle with the intent to help the animals cross the road.
How do car insurance companies handle wildlife collisions?
A collision with a large animal such as a bear, elk, or a moose can leave a considerable amount of damage to your car. If you have optional collision coverage and comprehensive coverage with your car insurance, this loss will most likely be covered. Collision coverage provides protection if your car is damaged in an accident, while comprehensive provides coverage for non-accident related claims; and both have a deductible.
Which coverage applies, 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, causing damage to your vehicle, 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 collision.
- Scenario 2: If a moose should suddenly appear on 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.