by Michael Finn
Every day in the United States, over one million animals are hit by cars, busses, and other motor vehicles. This is estimated as one animal for every 1.3 seconds and nearly 400 million a year. Disturbingly, these statistics don’t even consider those who are injured and die off road, which suggests that the actual numbers may be considerably higher. If we placed insects into the calculation, including threatened species such as honey bees and butterflies, the number would be astronomical.
When these fatalities occur, families are split apart. Monogamous couples are widowed, and baby/adolescent animals are left completely defenseless. But the dangers aren’t only for the animals. An estimated 200 people die each year from accidents involving collisions with wildlife. According to Rob Ament, the research director for the Western Transportation Institute, “If you reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, you would in all likelihood reduce fatalities.” While we have an ethical & moral obligation to watch out for animals on the road, altering our driving habits can help save our lives and those around us.
Consider adopting the following tips:
- Travel at or below the speed limit. By slowing down, you can dramatically decrease the likelihood of hitting an animal. Not only does a slower pace provide you with more time to scan the road/brush as you drive along, but you’ll be better prepared to brake without posing dangers to your and animals’ lives.
- Be conscientious of the season and time of day. Springtime, for the majority of animals, is mating season. To find partners and nesting grounds, many creatures will cross roads and pathways, so be extra cautious from spring throughout summer. Also, be aware of what time of day you’re driving. Because many animals become active between dusk and dawn, you’ll want to be exceptionally focused at these times. If possible, you could postpone driving until daytime.
- Stay to the center of the lane in one way traffic. Many times, drivers inadvertently strike an animal because they didn’t have time to act. When it’s safe for you, driving towards the center lane can help increase your visual field.
- Be especially careful on two-way roads that wind through woods, corn fields, or brush. Because human activity is often limited in these areas, animals are less prone to take caution when crossing. Since these “back roads” tend to be quite narrow, it’s best to either avoid them or drive at a slow 45 MPH. You should also be extra careful around bodies of water and bridges as well.
- Avoid throwing garbage or discarded food out of your car. Garbage and discarded food attracts hungry animals, so when garbage is thrown on the road, it dramatically increases their chances of being hit.
- Use your high beams whenever possible. Not only does this extra light offer you more visibility, but it also alerts animals of your presence ahead of time. As you drive, try to spot the reflection of your lights in the eyes of animals that may be in the distance. Many times this will be your first indication of an one hiding ahead of you.
- Be careful in neighborhoods where squirrels, rabbits, and domestic animals may dart out. It’s helpful to take caution when passing large trees or parked cars where animals may suddenly lunge into view. Because an estimated 1.2 million dogs and 5.4 million cats are killed each year on U.S. roads, this tip is especially important for pet owners and animal lovers alike.
In a world where animals are increasingly losing their habitat, and are being hunted by the millions, it’s imperative that we all do our share and give animals “a brake” from humanity’s constant bombardment. By considering the tips above, not only will you decrease your chances of striking them, but you’ll help ensure your safety, including others. So while you’re relishing in the pleasures of the season, remember these tips and keep a vigilant eye open!
For more information check out these very informative sources below
Driving Animals to their Graves
Animals and Cars: One Million Animals on the Roads Every Day