It might be as big as a moose or as small as a mouse. No matter where you’re going, be ready. Ready for the unexpected animal in the road, that is. You need to be ready for a deer to jump out from the ditch, directly into your highway lane. Be ready to avoid rear-ending the car that’s suddenly stopped so a turtle can cross the road. Be ready for a turkey vulture to take flight into your windshield. How do I know that it’s important to be ready? All these things have happened to us as we’ve traveled in our RV.
So, what’s the best thing to do? Is there a sure-fire way to avoid hitting an animal without damaging your rig or, even worse, yourself? As you might have guessed, each situation is different. But each situation demands quick action. The action you take depends on many variables: time of day, roadway conditions, amount of traffic, and so much more!
There are a few general steps you can take to avoid damage to yourself and your rig. Just remember that every circumstance is different. With that in mind, let’s look at what several insurance companies suggest.
- Watch your speed, especially during peak times of the day. Deer and other animals like to move during dusk and dawn. In cooler weather, snakes like to soak up the highway’s heat during the evening. Never speed, especially at night when visibility is greatly reduced.
- Be aware of seasonal animal movements. Deer and elk rut (and are on the move) in mid-August to mid-October. You may encounter more of these animals during those times.
- Consider your surroundings. If you are traveling through woods or areas of tall grass, you may not see an animal approaching the roadway. If you are driving curvy roads, be aware that potential trouble may be hidden around the bend. Decrease your speed if you safely can and be extra vigilant.
- Pay attention to “Deer Crossing” and other animal warning signs. Many animals have adapted to living close to civilization. You can encounter these creatures when driving in the suburbs as well as along rural roads.
- When there is no oncoming traffic, use your high beams, especially during dawn and dusk. High beams allow you to see further and potentially spot an animal on or near the road. This will give you time to decrease speed and take further appropriate action.
- Ask passengers riding with you to help watch for animals – especially at night. Remember that many creatures’ eyes will reflect your headlight’s beam (like deer and elk). You may see an animal’s eyes well before noticing their bodies. However, this is not the case for moose! Their eyes do not reflect light. So be extra vigilant when traveling in moose territory.
- Safely slow down as soon as you see an animal on the road ahead. (Be careful not to brake so hard that your vehicle skids.) Use your trailer brakes to help slow down your rig, if applicable.
- Put on your hazard flashers, if the state allows. This will give a “heads up” to drivers behind you and may also forewarn those approaching from the other direction.
- Remain in your lane. In most cases, swerving to avoid the animal while maintaining even a reduced speed can mean disaster.
- Generally, animals will continue to move along their chosen path. With that in mind, move slightly in the direction in which the animal was coming, if it is safe to do so. Then let them continue on their way.
- If you see one animal, watch closely for more to follow. Deer and other creatures often travel in small groups. Do not resume speed until you are sure it’s safe.
- If the animal remains in place on the roadway, come to a complete stop safely off the roadway.
If a collision is unavoidable, insurance providers have additional advice…
- Brace yourself for impact.
- If there’s time, slide down in your vehicle’s seat so that the dashboard can somewhat protect you. Large animals like moose, wild donkey, and elk can easily crash through the windshield or crush your vehicle’s roof.
- After impact, assess any injuries to people inside your vehicle. Call 911 for help, as needed.
- If you can, drive your vehicle as far off the highway as possible. Keep emergency flashers on.
- Stay in your vehicle. If you absolutely must exit, stay well away from the injured animal. Also, move in front of your rig as far away as possible. Call for help.
- Contact your insurance company as soon as you can.
Ever hit an animal while driving your RV? Tell us about it in the comments below.