Deer Crossing
Photo by Vlue/Shutterstock

5 tips for avoiding highway collisions with wildlife

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It’s that time of year again: deer and other wildlife are becoming more active as they search for a mate, which means you’re more likely to come across them while driving.

The government has taken special measures to reduce animal-vehicle collisions across the country, including installing fences and highway lighting, posting warning signs, and even draining salty ponds located beside highways, which tend to attract wildlife. Sudbury is even home to the first-ever large-animal wildlife overpass, which was built just south of the city on Highway 69. But despite these measures, collisions involving animals (mostly moose and deer) are still on the rise. In  Ontario alone, there are approximately 14,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions reported each year, and many more go unreported. Not surprisingly, the large majority of these collisions occur on two-lane roads, outside of urban areas.

So what should you do if you meet a large animal like a deer or moose on the highway? Here are five tips that can reduce your risk on the road and will hopefully keep you—and the animal—safe.

1. Avoid peak hours. Try to stay off the roads at dusk or dawn, which is when wildlife collisions most often occur.

2. Slow down. If an animal is crossing the road in front of you, slow down and assume that there are more following—animals like deer tend to travel together. Even if it hasn’t made it onto the road yet, you should still slow down and pass carefully—animal movements are unpredictable.

3. Scan the road. At night, use your high beams when possible to get the widest possible visibility and scan the road from shoulder to shoulder, watching for glowing eyes of animals. If you have a passenger, they should be acting as a second pair of eyes and keeping watch, too.

4. Brake. If an animal is standing on or crossing the road, the Ministry of Transportation advises hitting your brakes. Never assume the animal is going to move out of your way. If you’re not able to brake in time, don’t swerve—this could result in a more serious collision with another car on the road.

5. Keep your head up. While this is something you should always apply to your driving, it’s especially important this time of year when deer movement is high. Pull over if you need a drink or a bite to eat, or if you need to fiddle the radio. If you have a passenger, they can take care of some of this as well.