Everyone knows that it is imperative to keep an eye out for wildlife on Alberta’s highways (and sometimes even in our cities) when driving. Deer, moose, caribou, elk, porcupines, coyotes — you name it — can all jump out when you least expect it at any time of the year. It is especially important to be extra cautious in the winter, as the shorter days mean we spend a lot more time in the darkness, and wildlife remains very active at night.
Hitting an animal is scary and upsetting. Nobody wants to injure another living thing and the accident is often a complete shock. The impact of the collision can do serious damage to your vehicle, as well, and so knowing the proper steps to follow can help alleviate some of the stress caused by the incident.
Watch for wildlife crossing signs
Keep your eyes open for the different types of wildlife crossing signs the province uses to warn drivers: Animal Crossing, Caribou Crossing, and Moose Crossing. These are not placed just willy nilly. Wildlife crossing signs are put where it has been determined that the section of roadway passes through a migratory route or an established wildlife habitat area. There must also be a history of at least three or more animal-hit collisions or reported incidents (near misses) over a period of five years, and motorists’ sight line is inhibited by physical conditions on the roadway, such as roadway geometry, sight distances, and width of clear area on either side of roadway.
Spotting wildlife on the road
The Government of Alberta offers the following tips to avoid wildlife that may be lurking at the side of the road.
- Always follow speed limits.
- Keep scanning the roadway and ditches ahead for animals.
- Keep your windshield and headlights clean to improve your ability to see.
- Slow down while driving in curves and when reaching the crest of a hill.
- Watch for the shining eyes or silhouette of an animal at night.
- Use your high beams when there are no oncoming vehicles.
- Slow down if an animal is on or near the road and be prepared to stop, as their behaviour is unpredictable.
- If you see one animal, be careful as there may be more.
- Animals begin to migrate in November, so this is a particularly dangerous time.
- Honk in a series of short bursts to chase animals away.
Evasive manoeuvres … or not?
Experts advise braking firmly if an animal is in your path on the road. In many cases, drivers are going far too fast to be able to check traffic, and so often there is no time to swerve to avoid an animal, and nor should you. Evasive actions at a high speed may cause you to lose control of your vehicle. If you do have time to check traffic around you (there’s nobody behind or in the oncoming lanes), by all means do your best to avoid the animal.
If you must hit the animal, while braking, try to steer to hit it at an angle rather than head-on. This also increases your chance of a glancing blow that may not cause as much harm, and causes the front end of your vehicle to rise and reduce the chances of the animal coming through your windshield.
What about the animal?
If the animal you hit is hurt but not killed, of course your first impulse will be to try to help it. Nobody likes seeing an injured animal struggle. However, as difficult as it is to watch, it’s much safer to keep your distance. Instead, take note of your exact location and contact the nearest Fish and Wildlife area office with the details and last whereabouts of the animal.
Report the incident
The Alberta Wildlife Watch Program collects and analyzes data on animal-vehicle collisions in order to improve both driver and animal safety, reduce the number of animal collisions, provide information to inform mitigation strategies, and to help evaluate mitigation activities. Providing them with the details of your accident helps authorities improve driver safety throughout the province.
Your vehicle insurance when you hit an animal
Both comprehensive and collision vehicle insurance policies will cover drivers who have had an unfortunate encounter with wildlife on the road. At the time of the accident, if you are able to do so, pull over safely off the road. If your vehicle can’t be moved, turn on your hazards and place emergency warning triangles ahead of the crash site. Call the RCMP or police immediately, and do not return to your vehicle. Instead, stay a good distance away until help arrives.
When it is safe to do so, take photos of your vehicle and the crash site. Document the time and location of the occurrence and describe what happened in as much detail as possible. Do not assume your vehicle is safe to drive, even though it may seem so. Call roadside assistance for a tow as driving could be very dangerous. And, of course, contact your insurance broker or provider to file your claim.
Count on Lane’s for trustworthy vehicle insurance advice
One of the best reasons to choose Lane’s for your vehicle insurance is that we offer some of the best claims support in the Canadian insurance industry. You can always count on the brokers at Lane’s to fight for your rights and ensure you receive the full compensation you are entitled to under the law and according to the terms of your policy.