Arizona is a large state with a lot of natural, untouched land in and between its cities. As such, there will likely come a time when Arizona drivers find themselves on the road with nothing but nature surrounding them. While this presents us with some of the most scenic drives in the country, it can also present a problem. When you are surrounded by nothing but nature, the likelihood of encountering a deer or other animal crossing the road increases.
Here are five tips on how you can drive safely and avoid colliding with our wild animal friends and what to do if it happens:
1. Remain alert. In other words, pay attention. Seems simple enough, yet you’d be surprised how often drivers fail to do just that. Stay off your phone and avoid other distractions. Don’t let a seemingly empty highway fool you into a false sense of security. Animals can make their way onto the road in front of your vehicle at any instant. In places where tree and grasses are thicker, they may seem to appear out of thin air with no warning.
2. Make sure you can see well at night. Most animals seem to be more active at dawn, dusk, and in the nighttime- when visibility is the most compromised for motorists. Make sure your vehicle’s windshield has no cracks that obstruct your view and that it is clean. Use your high beams to help watch for the glow of animal eyes and movement. Learn more about safe night driving practices in our blog post 15 Tips for Driving Safely at Night.
3. Take it slow. After dark, don’t drive over 70 miles per hour. When you do, you are out driving your headlights, which leaves you no reaction time if there is an obstacle in the road. In both the day and night, consider driving no faster than (or maybe slightly under) the posted speed limits, especially in areas where signs warning of animal crossing activity are posted. Slowing down may cause you to reach your destinations a little later, but that is far less inconvenient than the aftermath of a high-speed crash with an animal.
4. When the inevitable occurs. Regardless of how well prepared you are, there may come a time when you simply cannot avoid hitting the animal. If you find yourself in this situation, remain in your lane and, with a firm grip on your steering wheel, push down firmly on your brake pedal. Thankfully, most modern vehicles come with anti-lock brakes which will help you to stop quickly and help you maintain steering control. If you have the time, lay on your horn. Many animals find themselves in a headlight induced trance (you’ve heard the term “a deer in headlights”). Blasting your horn may break the trance in enough time to allow the animal to run out of harm’s way. Do not swerve to avoid the animal. Doing so could result in a more dangerous collision with another vehicle, a rock wall, or even a ditch or cliff of some sort- and could cause you to lose control of your vehicle. No one wants to hit an animal, but your safety and the safety of your passengers and other motorists must come first.
5. After the collision. For smaller animals like skunk, rabbits, or possibly fox or coyote, your vehicle will likely be fine with no problems other than shaken nerves. However, striking large animals like deer and elk may cause some severe vehicle damage and possible injury to occupants of the vehicle. If you collide with an animal and it is injured but not dead, it can become dangerous. Stay in your vehicle away from the animal and call the authorities for assistance. They will help take care of the animal in the safest and most humane way possible, as well as help you with any needs you may have. They will also file an incident report that you will need for insurance purposes.
A little preparedness and caution will help you get where you are going safely while protecting the lives of the creatures who call the Arizona wilderness home.
For your automotive repair and maintenance needs, call on the experts at Virginia Auto Service. We have been Phoenix, Arizona’s go to shop for quality, reliable automotive care for over 20 years. Call us at 602-266-0200 or schedule your next appointment online.