Animal collisions, also called roadkill, are a major risk in driving. A head-on collision with a large animal such as moose or cattle is certain to cause human injuries and vehicle damage. And in any case, animal collisions threaten wildlife and livestock. Drivers are in most countries obliged to stop and call relevant authorities (typically the police) for instance to kill and dispose of injured animals.
- Times when many large animals are on the move:
- Sunrise and sunset; also has a blinding effect on drivers and animals
- Rainfall; also impairs sight and braking
- Mating and hunting seasons; seasonal moves between regions
- When the young are starting an independent life
- Full moon and/or heavy snowfall (elk/moose in particular)
- Cold weather; makes animals look for food near human settlements, winter driving also poses other risks
- Places where large animals tend to be on the move
- Bodies of water
- Bridges; animals might use bridges for convenience, and might lose orientation on them
- The edge of forests
- The edge of wildlife fences
- Farms; not only pets and livestock, but also wild animals intruding into crops
- Livestock in pastures
- Other warning signs
- Farmworkers or farming vehicles might lead livestock behind them
- When you see one animal, others are probably nearby
- Livestock enclosures, or facilities like stables may indicate the potential animals in the vicinity.
Keep a keen eye on the forest edge. Often the animals stay there for some time before entering the road, hard to notice for an untrained eye.
Use headlights and seatbelts. Be well-rested behind the wheel. Adapt speed to daylight and rainfall.
Using whistles attached to your vehicle to make a high-pitched noise, or playing your radio very loudly, can help to alert wildlife of your approach on the road in rural high-risk areas. The effect has not been proved, though.
Travellers might be tempted to steal warning signs as souvenirs, especially for animals they perceive as exotic. This is not only illegal; it also increases the risk for animal collisions. In some places equivalent boards can be purchased instead, perhaps made into tables or in more convenient sizes.
If you are forced to hit an animal, the rear end of deer and many other large animals is less heavy than its front. Trying to steer behind the animal also gives it a chance to run away forwards – which it will probably try also if you steer in front of it.
Do not relax having avoided the animal you saw: it probably has company. Do not rely on the animals behaving rationally; drive slow until securely past all of the herd.
In some jurisdictions, you are supposed to report collisions with working animals, livestock, or wildlife amongst others, so check this beforehand if needed.