Watching for wildlife on roads enhances safety for us, them

Dennis DalmanEditorial, Opinion, Print Editions, Print Sartell - St. Stephen, Print St. Joseph0 Comments

It’s easy to forget animals on roadways can be a serious traffic hazard that can result in injuries and, yes, even deaths to motorists and passengers. As winter evenings get darker longer, vehicle/animal accidents greatly increase.

A collision between animals/motorists happens on average every 39 minutes, according to the Department of Motor Vehicles. About 200 American motorists die each year from collisions with wildlife.

From time to time, there is terrible news of a deer colliding with a vehicle, crashing through the windshield and killing the driver and/or passengers. Just recently, on Thanksgiving evening in northern California, a mother and her 19-month-old daughter were both killed when the car the mother was driving collided with a black bear. A 4-year-old boy was injured in the awful accident.

Other serious accidents have been caused by motorists swerving abruptly to avoid hitting an animal, small or large.

That is why – to make things safer for our animal friends, not to mention ourselves – we should review driving tips on how to avoid such tragedies. The following are some good common-sense tips offered by the excellent website:

  • Be especially watchful at dawn, dusk and night – times when wildlife is most active.
  • Look for reflecting eyes in the darkness. Dimming dashboard lights helps you to see the eyes of animals ahead, shining in the headlights, allowing time to brake safely.
  • Remember if you see one animal cross the road, there may be one or more also ready to cross since animals often travel in pairs or groups. If you see even one animal cross the road or on the road, slow your vehicle to a crawl.
  • Frequently, an animal on the side of the road will dash into the middle of the road in panic, causing the motorist to hit it. If you see an animal off to the side, honk your horn repeatedly while slowing down or even pulling over to stop.
  • Heed the yellow animal-crossing warnings.
  • Drive with supreme caution on two-lane roads edged by trees or fields. Almost 90 percent of vehicle/animal accidents occur on such roadways.
  • When possible, use high beams but be aware they light up only about 200 to 250 feet ahead. If a road is icy, especially at night, reduce speed to 45 mph and as low as 30 mph on rural icy roads. Salt used on icy roads, by the way, often attracts wildlife.
  • Don’t throw food scraps out of the car. It can end up in ditches and attract wildlife big and small toward the roadways.

Remembering and following those tips will not only be good for animals but they are good driving-safety tips, period – animals or no animals – so it’s a win-win for one and all.

Author: Dennis Dalman

Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.

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