Now that we’ve endured the time change, it’s time to remind motorists to be particularly cautious to avoid wildlife-related accidents on our roads as daylight hours get shorter.
The fall time change happens to be right in line with peak mating season for some of our wildlife, especially deer. Bears are also still actively looking for food and the calories needed before hibernation. Animals are on the move this time of year, most actively between dawn and dusk. With shorter daylight hours, that makes wildlife harder to see right when people are making their daily commutes. Just last week a young deer was mortally wounded when a vehicle was driving too fast in the downtown area of Estes Park and sadly, police had to put the young deer down.
The Colorado Department of Transportation sees an average of 3,300 reported wildlife collisions each year, and notes more car accidents involving wildlife occur in November than in any other month.
The following precautions are good advice all year long, but particularly at and around the change back to daylight standard time:
• Slow down. Swerving at high speeds increases the danger of an accident. Moderate speeds maintain a driver’s reaction time and allow an appropriate response to animals on or near roads.
• Stay alert, particularly while driving between dusk and dawn. This is when deer and other wildlife are most active and more likely to be crossing roadways.
• Scan ahead and watch for movement and shining eyes along roadsides. If you see one animal, you should expect it will be accompanied by others.
• Obey traffic signs, particularly wildlife warning signs. Though incidents can happen anywhere, transportation authorities attempt to reduce the number of incidents by posting signage and lowering speeds in areas where wildlife are active.
• When animals are seen on or near the road, slow down or stop, tap your horn and/or flash headlights. This warns the animal to avoid the road and alerts other drivers to the potential hazard.
• Always wear seat belts. Unfortunately, not every collision is avoidable, and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration states that the risk of serious injury and death in a crash is reduced by half when seat belts are worn.
• Keep your dogs leashed. Too many times unleashed dogs discover and chase wildlife into the roadway where they are hit by vehicles.
• Drivers involved in a wildlife/vehicle collision should report the accident.