Accidents caused by encounters with animals are unfortunately common and often deadly. Hitting an animal at highway speeds can cause serious damage, but fatal accidents have also occurred on residential streets when drivers swerve to avoid hitting a cat or a dog. Many highways erect fencing, place warning signs, or build special overpasses to divert animals from the road; however, as suburbia increasingly encroaches on former wild habitats, accidents involving wild animals close to home are becoming more common. Deer collisions, for example, contributed to more than 1.5 million accidents in the U.S. alone in 2011.

While some accidents caused by animal encounters might seem random and unavoidable, if you are alert and aware of the possibilities, you can be better prepared and able to take defensive driving steps to minimize the severity should you meet up with an animal while driving. Here are some examples, all based on actual events. Some are fairly common, others quite unexpected, but in many cases the injury and damage could have been lessened by a different driver response.

  1. Jenny had just obtained her driver's license and was heading to pick up her friends to go shopping. She popped down the sun visor and a large, black spider fell onto her arm. Freaked, Jenny tried to swat the spider away. She began to swerve and smashed into a parked car.
  2. Bill and his family were on vacation, towing their luxury RV trailer along a winding mountain road. As they rounded a curve, they came upon a moose in the middle of the highway. Startled, Bill hit the brakes, sending the vehicle and its trailer jackknifing directly into the path of an oncoming semi-trailer. Five members of the family were killed instantly, including Bill's wife, who was thrown from the vehicle and crushed under the semi's wheels.
  3. While enjoying a Sunday afternoon drive along a scenic city road by the side of a river, Sally spotted a mother goose and her cute little family of goslings. She braked to allow them to cross in front of her vehicle, but the cars behind were unable to stop in time. The rear-end chain reaction eventually involved more than a dozen vehicles and caused a number of minor injuries.
  4. Arnie hit a deer that sprang out in front of him. He pulled over and ran over to the animal to ascertain the injury. The frightened deer suddenly jumped up and bolted, knocking Arnie onto the pavement and into the path of oncoming traffic.
  5. Jim was on his way home from work when a small dog suddenly darted out in front of his car. Jim narrowly managed to avoid hitting the dog by swerving to the right, but he lost control of his car. It crossed the median and mounted the curb, striking a child and his mother who were standing on the sidewalk waiting for the crosswalk light to turn green.
  6. Gary and his family had rented a large SUV for a weekend trip. As they set out on the road, his children began to scream. A large snake had crawled out from under the back seat and, startled by the noise, began to slither around Gary's feet, nearly causing him to swerve into the ditch. Unknown to the family, the previous renter had used the SUV to transport his collection of exotic reptiles.
  7. Amy's puppy loved to go for rides in her truck, often jumping from window to window in excitement. While driving one afternoon, Amy was momentarily distracted by trying to push the puppy off her lap. When she looked up she realized she had drifted across the center line directly into the path of an oncoming vehicle. Unable to turn the wheel back in time, she struck the vehicle head on, killing a family of four.
  8. Mary was cruising along the highway when a bird struck her passenger windshield with extreme force, shattering it. Mary lost control of the vehicle, hitting a guard rail and spinning into the ditch. Her passenger sustained severe facial lacerations.
  9. In the early morning darkness Lizzy was making her way to work from her suburban apartment when she was startled by a deer that ran across the street in front of her. Distracted and bemused, she didn't notice a second deer that had followed close behind. The deer collided with her driver's door, shattering the window. Lizzy escaped with minor cuts and bruises.
  10. One hot summer afternoon Betty was stopped at a red light when a wasp entered the open window and flew under her pant leg. Panicked, she hit the accelerator and broadsided another car in the intersection.
Experts recommend a number of techniques to avoid or minimize the consequences of animal accidents, including exercising care at certain times of day or season, keeping pets restrained, and not trying to avoid hitting an animal by swerving. In some cases drivers may be found negligent and at fault. Although most Cleveland auto insurance policies cover animal accidents through the comprehensive portion of the policy, many drivers don't carry enough comprehensive coverage or have a high deductible. If you commonly drive in areas and situations where animal encounters are more likely, make sure that your auto insurance policy will meet your needs by calling Regency Insurance Agency at 440-266-8888.
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