When you should swerve when there is an animal in the road

The other day I overheard two co-workers talking about a trip up north to Fort Kent when one of them said, “seriously, though, watch out for moose.” Almost immediately there were stories of roadkill and crazy moose accidents coloring the remainder of that afternoon. And it got me thinking, how do you avoid hitting something as big as a moose? And, can you get into a serious collision if it is something as small as a skunk?

So I did some research. Here is what I found out.

Don’t swerve. Ever.

You can expect serious injury or even death by hitting oncoming traffic after swerving your car then you can by jamming on the brakes, laying on the horn, and ducking below the dashboard.

If you see small animals in the road then try to stop the car quickly and scare it away with noise, but don’t swerve or you could end up in a potentially more dangerous situation.

Actually, you should swerve this one time.

The only exception to the do-not-swerve-ever rule is if you see a moose. According to the DMV website,

“An adult moose can grow to 1,600 pounds. Consequently, colliding with a moose is comparable to colliding with a compact vehicle on stilts, with the likelihood of fatal or long-term injuries to the front-seat occupants of your car. So if the situation allows, swerving for a moose is a defensive option.”

David Richards of Skowhegan survived this accident on July 3 while driving near Monson. The moose ended up inside his Hyundai Accent, but Richards was up and walking shortly after the crash. (Photo by Chester Jaynes Annance) John Holyoke

David Richards of Skowhegan survived this accident on July 3 while driving near Monson. The moose ended up inside his Hyundai Accent, but Richards was up and walking shortly after the crash. (Photo by Chester Jaynes Annance)

Should I speed up if I am about to hit a moose?

Nope. The logic behind this advice that by speeding up the driver may be able to send the moose rolling over the top of the car without injury or damage to the driver or car. Myth Busters tested this is theory and this is what they discovered:

“The team found that an antler-less moose can still wreck a car with the sheer force of its body weight — especially when the car barrels toward it. The MythBusters steered a car motoring at 45 miles per hour into Lucy three times: once slowing down, once speeding up and once while maintaining the same speed. The wreckage revealed that slowing down is by far the safest option when running into a moose. Faster speeds deliver a greater force of impact, which the moose absorbs and delivers with a more powerful, damaging smackdown on top of the auto.”

Here are some helpful facts about animal behaviors near traffic

  1. Drivers are most likely to hit a moose or bear at night.
  2. Deer tend to roam in packs and so if you see one then slow down because there are likely more nearby.
  3. Some animals freak out and leap INTO the road when spooked. If you see rabbits, skunks, porcupines or other small skittish animals then slow down, honk your horn, but do not swerve.
  4. If you are driving down roads that use road salt then prepare to go slow as wildlife will often seek out the salt for their diets.
  5. Headlamps can only brighten so far, up to 200 to 250 feet, so make sure to slow down to the speed limit or slightly below especially when weather conditions are less than desirable. Some animals are small and hard to spot until it is too late.
(Photo courtesy of Peter Jackson)

(Photo courtesy of Peter Jackson)