New Driver Safety Tips: Avoiding Wildlife Collisions

Wildlife collisions are all too common in Ontario and inexperienced drivers are far more likely to be involved. Over 14,000 collisions with wildlife occur every year in Ontario alone; in addition to fatalities (human and animal) and serious injuries, wildlife collisions cause millions in damages annually.

Car accidents caused by animals, especially a large animal like a moose or deer, is also a traumatic experience, especially for new drivers who may struggle to regain their confidence after the accident.

How To Avoid A Wildlife Collision

To avoid accidents involving animals, new drivers should know where and when the majority of wildlife-vehicle collisions occur. Of course, these collisions can occur anywhere but the majority of wildlife collisions occur:

  • on rural, two-lane roads

  • between 7 pm and midnight, when it’s dark and animals are more active

  • spring/summer and again in the fall (October through January), which is mating season for moose and deer

  • on long, straight stretches of road with good roadside habitat and water nearby

So if you’re driving through rural Ontario late at night in the spring or fall, be sure to do the following:

Watch for roadside signs: those yellow triangle signs with animals in the middle? Those are important. No matter how many times you see them on the same stretch of road, do not become complacent. They are there for a reason, and that reason is usually because wildlife collisions have occurred there before.

Reduce speed: it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security on long stretches of rural road when there are few other drivers around. You will be tempted to speed through these areas, but speeding reduces your ability to steer away from objects in the road and increases the force of impact.

Drive defensively: defensive driving means paying close attention to road conditions and predicting hazards. In the case of wildlife collisions, defensive driving means:

  • paying close attention to both sides of the road —in the ditch, on the shoulder, and in the right of way

  • keeping an eye out for movement and shining eyes (caused by your headlights reflecting off the animal’s eyes)

  • mentally prepare —think about what you would do if an animal darted out in front of you

Don’t forget to use your vehicle: when we aren’t accustomed to using things like our hazard lights, horn, or high beams, we can forget they’re there. Reduce your chances of a wildlife collision with in-car driving lessons that allow you to practice using the tools at your disposal so that they are second nature when you need them. That means:

  • using your high beams when it’s safe to do so

  • using your horn or flashing your lights to scare animals off the road (works better for deer than for moose)

  • driving in the middle lane when possible to maintain distance from the ditch

  • using the high beams of the vehicle in front of you to extend your sight distance

And of course, always, always wear your seatbelt!