Around the world, animals are killed on the roads every day. In New South Wales, researchers found that around 500 animal road accidents occur each year. But animals are not the only ones suffering in these tragedies.
In the United States alone, some 200 people are killed each year as a result of vehicle-animal collisions, costing in excesses of US$1.1 billion in property damage. But even closer to home, in our neighbouring island of Jamaica, motorists face similar challenges.
Take, for example, in 2018 a woman had the unfortunate experience of hitting a dog on the highway on her way to May Pen, Clarendon. Her husband recalled her story in the Jamaica Observer:
“On April 12, 2017, while taking her usual route on Highway 2000 to work from Old Harbour to Clarendon, my wife SF, a teacher, was involved in an accident. She was heading towards the May Pen toll booth when two dogs ran across the road. She had to swerve the car to avoid hitting one of the dogs but ended up hitting the other, resulting in damage to the front bumper of her motor car. Needless to say, she and my three-year-old daughter (who also travels to school with her) were traumatised after the incident.”
Read the full story here:
After much back and forth with her insurance broker and the Highway 2000/Jamaican Infrastructure Operator (JIO) and the Trans Jamaica Highway (TJH), the woman was able to settle her claim almost a year later.
There is a lot to be learned from this incident; (1) oftentimes, we don’t know what to do when we see an animal in the road, (2) we don’t know where to go or who to call after we hit an animal, and (3) hitting animal can cause much trauma and not to mention the damage to your vehicle and the costs incurred as a result of the accident.
Are you prepared to encounter animals on the road? Do you know what to do in the event that you hit the animal? You don’t want to wreck your car, and you certainly don’t want to injure yourself or the animal. So, make sure you are prepared to avoid a collision with dogs and other animals on the road.
Here are a few tips to ‘bear’ in mind when traversing roads that may have four-legged “pedestrians”.
- Look for animal crossing signs. Be extra careful in areas with these warning signs, like on highways. Use your high beams at nights so you can spot animals in the road from a greater distance.
- Drive slower at night. You should always respect the speed limit, but it’s especially important to do so after dark. Driving at a slower speed gives you more time to react to animals or other road hazards. Remember, animals don’t have headlights, but they do get caught in them.
- Goats, cows and dogs often travel in groups. If you see one, then chances are others are probably nearby. Don’t make the mistake of slowing down for one animal just to accelerate into another down the road.
- Don’t swerve and don’t slam on the brakes. If you do encounter a dog or any other animal in the road, slow down gradually and toot your horn intermittently. Swerving could cause you to lose control of the vehicle. Sudden stops or movements could also scare the animal, causing it to run right into your path.
- Minimise your distractions, such as those from passengers, food, and accessories like cell phones. If your full attention is on the road, you’ll be more likely to spot approaching animals with your peripheral vision.
- Get in the habit of scanning the roadside as you drive. Vigilance is the first and best defence, especially when driving on unfamiliar rural roads. Ask passengers to help by examining both sides of the roadway.
- Ensure you’re not enticing animals onto the road. Throwing food or food wrappers out of car windows may endanger animals by attracting them onto the street. They might appreciate the snack but they won’t appreciate becoming an entree for vultures.
- If you see a large animal near the road, like a cow or horse, and think you have time to avoid hitting it, reduce your speed, tap your brakes to warn other drivers, turn on your hazard lights and gently sound your horn. Try tooting in a series of short bursts to frighten the animal away.
- According to road safety experts, the best response is to remain in your lane while attempting to slow down as quickly as possible. If you have room to do so, move toward the left side, or outer edge, of the road. An animal instinctively moves faster along its chosen path when it is startled, so moving slightly in the direction that the animal was coming from and slowing down will, ideally, give the animal time and space to escape safely. So if a dog is running to the left, then it would be better for you to pass on the right.
- If a collision seems inevitable, don’t swerve to avoid the animal; your risk of injury may be higher if you do. Maintain control of the vehicle. Report the accident to the police and your insurance company. And if the incident took place on a highway, in a gated community or on someone’s property be sure to inform the relevant authorities there as well.
Nothing says trouble like a dog in headlights, but if the lights are yours then apply these tips to avoid hurting the animal, yourself or damaging your vehicle.