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How to avoid collisions with wildlife (or at least reduce the damage)

In many ways, Colorado is synonymous with wilderness. Our state straddles the frontier between prairie and mountain. Our lands abound with natural riches, from snow-capped peaks to dramatic rocky canyons to white-watered alpine streams.

Along with this treasured wilderness, however, comes the inevitable collision between man and nature. And it happens in a very literal sense on many of our state’s highways and byways.

A frequent occurrence

Collisions with wildlife are a frequent occurrence in Colorado. Just last month, two motorcycles and a semitruck crashed to avoid hitting a bear in the road. (Miraculously, all survived.) On average, more than 3,000 animal-vehicle accidents are reported every year, and many more likely go unreported.

These accidents take a big toll on animal and human alike. Nationwide, more than 25,000 people are injured every year in collisions with wildlife, according to the Federal Highway Administration. On average, insurance claims involving wildlife collisions total more than $1.1 billion per year.

Avoiding dangerous or deadly encounters

Reduce your chances an unpleasant interaction between wildlife and your bumper by following these tips:

  • Watch for signs. Many of Colorado’s roadways are marked with wildlife warning signs in high-risk areas. Pay attention to these signs.
  • Slow down. Speed is a common factor in these collisions. Always observe posted speed limits, and never drive too fast for the conditions.
  • Be alert. Watch for wildlife on the shoulder and in the ditch – especially at dawn and dusk, when deer are most active. And because deer often travel in groups, where you see one, there are likely others.
  • Know how to avoid or minimize damage. It’s better to hit the animal than to swerve into oncoming traffic (or trigger a rollover). Don’t slam on the brakes if someone is tailgating you. And just before you hit, ease up on the brakes to reduce the change of the animal coming through your windshield.

Thrilling as it can be to see wildlife, you don’t want an encounter that’s too close for comfort.

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