Spring on the Road

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How to respond when encountering animals on the road

In the summer of 2015, a video of dozens of cars swerving to avoid a family of ducks crossing a busy Minnesota freeway went viral. While no people or ducks were injured in that incident, impromptu animal crossings are a potential hazard on roadways where drivers are unaccustomed to sharing the road with four-legged counterparts. In the wake of the video, state officials urged drivers not to stop for animals because of the hazards posed by sudden stopping.

Drivers may have mixed feelings on whether or not to put their lives in jeopardy to save an errant animal, but sometimes there is little time to make a decision. As more neighborhoods and roadways infringe on natural habitats, incidents of animals on the roadways figure to increase. Deer, moose, elk, and smaller animals can wander out onto busy roads, and there's no foolproof way to prevent it.

According to State Farm Insurance, roughly 1.5 million animal-car accidents occur each year, resulting in 10,000 injuries, 150 deaths and $2,500 in property damage on average. Knowing what to do when encountering animals on the road can help drivers avoid accidents and injuries.

• Experts advise drivers to remain in their lanes and to attempt to slow down as quickly as possible when encountering animals on the road. Move slowly in the direction the animal was coming from if it's safe, as animal instinct is to dart out in the direction it was going.

• Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Scan the edges of the road to see if animals are present. Dawn and dusk are key times for animals to be on the move looking for food. Autumn is both hunting and mating season for deer, and they tend to travel a lot during this time of year.

• Obey speed limits and take signs warning of animal crossing hotspots seriously.

• Should you hit an animal, do not exit the car and approach it. Injured animals can be dangerous, with pain driving them to flail, kick or bite.

Sharing roadways with animals is tricky. Remaining alert, slowing down in highly populated wildlife areas and avoiding swerving can reduce risk of accident or injury.