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Drive Safe: How to ‘Give Wildlife a Brake’

Vehicle-animal collisions become more common this time of year as the sun sets sooner. See how to protect yourself and Altadena wildlife while you drive or in case of an accident.

October through December signals the beginning of holiday season, but also the worst time of year in many states for car collisions with deer that can cause injury, death or car damage, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

In an effort to raise awareness about driving near wildlife safely, next week (Oct. 29-Nov. 4) is “Give Wildlife a Brake” Week.

, deer, mountain lions or other creatures and co-existing safely is an ongoing concern.

The Humane Society of the United States offers these tips for driving safely and how to deal with an injured animal if an accident occurs.

Tips to reduce the likelihood of a crash:

  • Follow speed limits. Many animals are hit simply because people drive too fast to avoid them. This makes the roads safer for other drivers and pedestrians, too.
  • Watch for wildlife in and near the road at dawn, dusk, and in the first few hours after darkness. Keep in mind that where there is one animal, there are probably others—young animals following their mother or male animals pursuing a female.
  • Be especially cautious on two-lane roads bordered by woods or fields, or where streams cross under roads. Most animal/vehicle collisions occur on these roads. Slow down to 45 mph or less.
  • Scan the road as you drive, watching the edges for wildlife about to cross. This will also make you more aware of other hazards such as bicyclists, children at play, and slowly moving vehicles. 
  • Don’t throw trash out car windows. Discarded food pollutes the environment and creates a hazard by attracting wildlife to the roads. 
  • Use your high beams whenever possible.
  • Lower your dashboard lights slightly. You'll be more likely to see your headlights reflected in the eyes of animals in time to brake.

How to Help Injured Animals:

  • Do not put your own safety at risk. Unless you can move the animal from the road in absolute safety, do not attempt to do so. Use your hazard lights or emergency road flares to warn oncoming traffic of the injured animal. Never attempt to handle a large animal, like a deer, or one that could give a serious bite, like a raccoon.
  • Call someone with the proper training and equipment. When you need assistance, call the non-emergency number of the local police department (program the phone number into your cell phone right now so you have it when you need it) and describe the animal's location. Emphasize that the injured animal is a traffic hazard to help ensure that someone will come quickly. Stay in the area until help arrives.
  • Use heavy gloves to protect yourself or avoid direct handling if you try to rescue a small animal yourself. Remember that the animal doesn't know you are trying to help and may bite or scratch in self-defense. An old towel is helpful if you need to move an injured animal.
  • Gently coax or place the animal into a cardboard box and transport him/her to an animal shelter, wildlife rehabilitator, or a receptive veterinarian. If there is a delay, keep the animal in a dark, warm, quiet place to minimize fear and stress.
  • If you accidentally kill an animal, try to move the animal off the road—but only if you can do so in complete safety. Otherwise, report the location of the animal's body to the local police department, and it will arrange for removal. This will prevent scavengers from being attracted onto the road and eliminate a potential traffic hazard.
Barbara Ellis October 26, 2012 at 05:35 PM
I always use my high beams when going down Chaney trail in the dark (but only when no cars are coming the other way). You never know if there's an animal crossing or running down the hill round the next corner.
Melody Comfort October 27, 2012 at 04:37 PM
We just recently lost an acquaintance, whose motorcycle was struck by a deer jumping across a road. His wife, riding behind him on the bike, sustained minor injuries, while his injuries eventually proved fatal.
Laura Monteros October 28, 2012 at 02:49 AM
I don't think my kids saw a live opossum until they were in middle school. They thought the came dead. More seriously--while you want to avoid large wildlife (as Melody noted, they can kill you, even if you are in an automobile), DO NOT swerve to avoid small animals. They won't hurt your car, but an accident can total the car and you. My son swerved to avoid a rabbit on the Pasadena Freeway and ran into the embankment. That was the end of the car; fortunately, he was not hurt.

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