Think that roads are reserved for California rental car drivers? Think again! Four legs are just as common as four wheels on the streets of California, a realization that can often lead to some unexpected situations. According to statistics, a vehicle collides with some form of wildlife on the road an average of once every 39 minutes. What’s more, approximately 200 motorists die in the United States each year from unexpected animal encounters.
Here in California, accidents involving animals are relatively common. As such, it’s important that all of our customers understand what they should (and shouldn’t) do if ever they encounter an animal on the road.
A Word About Wildlife Crossing Areas
While an animal could cross any road at any time, government officials spend a great deal of time and effort trying to pinpoint locations where animals are most likely to test their luck with traffic. In most cases, wildlife crosses are established after repeated observations of animals crossing a small section of roadway or when a section of roadway shows an unusually high rate of vehicle-animal collisions. California officials also try to protect established wildlife corridors (i.e. document game trails or mating areas) in order to reduce animal fatalities and ensure a safer commute for California drivers.
When behind the wheel of your California rental car, remember to keep your eyes peeled for yellow wildlife warning signs. Shaped like diamonds, these signs warn of the potential dangers of an animal crossing ahead. While these signs don’t require a driver to slow down to a particular speed, they’re often accompanied by a speed limit sign advising drivers to slow down. Ease off the gas and pay closer attention to your surroundings once you spot one.
To Swerve or Not To Swerve?
If an animal were to suddenly jump out in front of your California rental car, would you know what to do? In the event of an animal encounter, you’ll need to think fast. Is it safe to swerve? When sharing the road with wildlife, it’s crucial that you never, ever take unsafe evasive actions. Instead, your first line of defense should be to slow down. Swerving to avoid contact with an animal could cause you to lose control of your California rental car, potentially taking you into the path of an oncoming vehicle.
That being said, there are a few exceptions to this rule. For example, if a bear or moose were suddenly to step out in front of your California rental car, swerving could be your only chance at survival. A collision with an animal of this size (a moose can weigh up to 1,200 pounds), carries a significant risk of injury or even death. If a crash with an animal of this size in unavoidable, do your best to brace yourself for the impact. Crouch as low as possible in your seat, or even under the dash. The force of the animal’s body against your windshield could potentially crush your vehicles roof, never mind you.
If possible, aim for the spot where the animal is coming from, rather than where it is going. To do this, look behind the animal. California rental car drivers tend to drive where they look. If you’re looking directly at the animal, you’re more likely to hit is square on rather than give it a glancing blow. Try to brake firmly and quickly. If possible, let your foot off the brake just before you hit the animal. This will cause the front of your California rental car vehicle to rise slightly, reducing the chances of the animal coming through your windshield.
What to Do If You’ve Been in an Animal Collision
This will depend a lot on where you are, what type of animal you’ve hit and the amount of traffic that’s on the road. In most situations, you should always try to pull off to the side of the road. Engage your hazard lights and do your best to point your lights at the dead or injured animal. If the animal is still alive, stand back. A wounded animal can be very dangerous. Contact the local police service to report the accident and request further assistance from animal control officers.
As a California rental car customer, it’s worth noting that your chances of colliding with an animal while behind the wheel are constantly increasing. According to recent research:
- There are more whitetail deer – the most common big-game species – in the United States today than ever before.
- There also a record number of vehicles on the road today.
- The habitat for wildlife has shrunk to its smallest size ever.
These trends have caused the number of animal collisions to increase dramatically in the past decade. In fact, it’s estimated that one out of every 17 car collisions involves some form of wandering wildlife. Avoid adding to these statistics during your upcoming California rental car vacation and reduce your chances of colliding with an animal by driving safely and defensively.