Watch Out for Wildlife on Alberta Roads

Deer on the road

The chances of your being invoked in a wildlife collision inside Calgary are remote, but just outside the city we are not very far from moose, deer, black bears and all manner of animals, each of which is capable of causing a major collision.

At Bow Valley Insurance, we pride ourselves on our customer service. To avoid having your peaceful mountain drive turn into a dreadful experience for everyone, including Alberta’s diverse wildlife, we offer the following safety tips.

Drive Defensively

Alberta is filled with yellow diamond wildlife warning signs. Statistics on wildlife populations, including individual animals involved in vehicle collisions, are regularly tabulated by the province. Warning signs are posted where wildlife, such as deer or moose have shown a penchant for crossing the highway and causing accidents.

Therefore, if you encounter a sign that declares “Deer Next 60Km,” please take it seriously, especially as the sun is rising or setting and poor light conditions make spotting running deer or moose far more tricky. The coming winter also serves to drive wildlife off of the foothills and down into the valleys for the relatively milder temperatures, valleys where highways are predominantly built, so now is the time to begin being extra vigilant, slowing down during curves, and scanning ahead as far as you can.

When presented with mile after mile of open road there is a temptation to speed. Especially in the presence of heavywildlife, giving in to that temptation could result in terrible consequences. The trouble with wildlife, unlike with regular traffic, is that their behaviour on the roadway cannot be predicted by anyone. If you suddenly light up several sets of deer eyes, you are going to first witness their flight response. As everyone knows from sayings such as, “A deer caught in the headlights…” some of those deer will react at all to get clear of your vehicle. Adding extra speed to such a situation not only shortens your reaction time, it puts unrealistic demands upon your vehicle’s steering, brakes, and tires to either evade, or stop short of, an imminent collision. Give yourself those extra few split seconds of decision-making time and never speed through a wildlife heavy highway area.

To Swerve or Not to Swerve

There are a few common sense points you should ponder before you are ever in the situation of potentially colliding with wildlife.

First, if your car is “going to win” the collision, say with a jackrabbit within Calgary’s city limits, you are generally better off striking it, if essentially unavoidable. It may be grim, but striking a small animal is almost always the better tactic in areas of traffic congestion than suddenly turning or slamming upon the brakes. If there is any kind of traffic, swerving out of your lane or short-stopping in front of someone behind you is going to be more dangerous than is inadvertently flattening a squirrel bounding in front of your car.

Out in the countryside, with its bigger animals, poor road lighting, unimproved shoulders, and lack of barriers, deviating from the lane suddenly at high speed can mean a roll over accident or worse, especially if you drive a SUV or truck with a higher center of gravity.

The one animal where avoidance is the preferred tactic is moose. Moose, due to their exceptional size, are a special case. At a standing height bordering 2m, (6ft.) you may not catch the eyes of a moose with your headlights. Your first indicator of something being in the road could be the movement of its body in your headlights. This is an unenviable spot to find yourself. The moose is our part of Alberta can grow to 825kg, (~1800 pounds), and run up to 56kmh (35mph), and are nothing you want to collide with if it is avoidable.

Stay Safe Out There

Did you know that by driving less you not only avoid wildlife collisions, you can reduce your auto insurance premiums? Contact us for a quote from one or more of the insurers we represent at Bow Valley Insurance.