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Tips for avoiding vehicle collisions with wild animals

Montana is no stranger to wildlife, even on our roads. An average of 1 in 58 drivers in Montana will have a collision with a large animal that results in an insurance claim in 2016. This is the second highest likelihood in the nation, according to claims data from State Farm and driver counts from the Federal Highway Administration. 

Especially in the fall and winter months, it is important to be aware of wildlife crossings and practice other tips to be safe while driving in areas populated by deer, elk, moose and other large animals.

In addition to damaging your vehicle, collisions with large wildlife can be dangerous. In fact, they accounted for more than 2,080 fatal crashes nationwide from 2001-2011. 

The following are tips for AAA to stay alert, aware and safe when you encounter an animal on the road:

  • Scan the road and shoulders ahead of you - Looking far enough ahead, like with other vehicles, will improve your reaction time if an animal suddenly appears. Remember that animals often move in groups, so there may be more than one in the same area.
  • Use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic - Using your high-beam headlights may help you to spot wildlife sooner, giving you time to slow down, move over or honk to attempt to scare the wildlife away from danger.
  • If a collision is unavoidable, remain in your lane - Swerving to avoid an animal can often cause a more serious crash or can make you lose control of the vehicle. Instead, apply the brakes firmly and release them just before impact to help prevent the animal from being "scooped" up and over the hood.
  • Use extra caution at dawn and dusk - Many animals, especially deer, tend to be most active at sunrise and sunset.
  • Use extra caution in areas with a high and active wildlife population - Slow down and be aware of increased wildlife movement in some regions during certain times of year, such as hunting or mating season.
  • Wear a seat belt and remain awake, alert and sober - As with any time you get behind the wheel, make sure you are in the right state of mind to do so.

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