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Watch out for animals on the road!

Posted on Oct 11, 2016 by: Scott West

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On September 7, 2015, at 9:50 PM, I was driving in rural north Texas when I hit a coyote. Traveling at the speed limit on a two-lane country road, the coyote ran frantically into the road, and I had about three seconds to react.

After some zigging and zagging, the coyote planted itself directly into my right front bumper with a muffled thump. As coyotes don’t weigh much and the car's performance didn't feel impaired, I just kept driving. While later gassing up in Fort Worth, I surveyed the damage to my bumper; turns out the minor thump equated to $1,050 in bumper and light fixture repair.

Fall is primetime for animal-auto collisions. The days are getting shorter and cooler. Wild game and predators are nocturnal, wandering out to hunt and forage when the sun goes down. Also, with winter coming, animals are more inclined to travel longer distances and cross roads. Deer, wild pigs, coyotes, and other critters present significant driving hazards; typically, if you hit something that weighs over one hundred pounds, it will cause substantial damage to your vehicle. The faster you drive at night, the less opportunity you will have to avoid collision.

My brother-in-law struck a turkey last fall, a week before Thanksgiving. While this shouldn’t have been eventful, the bird was flying across a New York interstate highwayand struck his windshield at seventy miles per hour. Fortunately, only the bird was injured. And no, it didn’t wind up on the table the next week.

Animal collisions are covered by your insurance, subject to a deductible. In my case, I didn’t submit a claim due to a high collision deductible. Fortunately, my car was drivable and I finished my trip without further incident.

Stories abound about collisions, some deadly, with large animals. When driving in rural areas at night, remember to slow down. Wild game isn’t the only thing that could be loose on the roads; it might be a 1,500-pound cow, which will ruin a perfectly good evening for both occupants of the vehicle and the animal. I’ve seen that as well, with the vehicle totaled and the cow dead. It’s fall, so remember that you are potentially sharing the road at night with something that doesn’t have taillights!