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When Should Drivers Avoid Animals on the Road?

The McClellan Law Firm

Most California drivers are familiar with the desire to swerve out of the way of an animal that finds itself on the road. Often drivers will veer out of the way of an animal in an attempt not to injure it. However, in trying to avoid hitting an animal, drivers may lose control of their cars or hit other motorists, causing damage to vehicles, bodily injury and even fatal accidents.

In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted 12,000 accidents involving an animal that resulted in injuries; 173 of those accidents were fatal crashes. Small animals like dogs and cats can cause these car accidents, but so can larger animals like deer and cattle. According to a traffic industry study, deer alone account for more than $1 billion in annual damage to vehicles from 1.5 million accidents.

Most experts agree that if one can safely change lanes without injuring an animal, one should do so, but many times the best course of action is to stay in the lane. A good rule of thumb to avoid a potential accident is that if one cannot safely change lanes and the animal is shorter than the hood of the car, keep going straight. If the animal is a taller animal like a deer, avoid it if possible. Depending on the surrounding traffic conditions, however, sometimes it still may be safer to hit a larger animal than trying to avoid it.

No one wants to feel like they are the reason an animal on the road has been injured or killed. But there are many factors that drivers need to be aware of and take into consideration at all times, especially the other cars, bikes and pedestrians around them. Their safety may rely on a driver making the right decision when suddenly faced with an animal in the road.