We've all been there -- you're driving on the road, minding your own business, when a deer suddenly jumps in front of your vehicle. Or, perhaps you notice a squirrel or bird in the middle of the road as you approach -- but it doesn't seem to notice you. Or, you're in your neighborhood when a cat wanders into the street.

As the temperatures cool down, you'll notice more animals wandering around -- especially deer. You generally have precious few seconds to react -- and how you respond could be the difference between a collision with an animal or accident with another driver.

Each year in the U.S. there are between 1 and 2 million collisions involving vehicles and large animals, the Federal Highway Administration reports. These kinds of crashes almost always involve only one vehicle and typically occur on low-trafficked, straight roadways with dry surfaces (think: the winding roads of Indian Hill or Kemper Road near Sharon Woods).

Here's how you can avoid an accident:

1. Being aware of your surroundings -- if you're in the country, heavily wooded or low-traffic areas, you are more likely to encounter animals. Slow down, keep your eyes on the road, and you'll be able to react accordingly.

2. If you encounter an animal on the road, do not speed up to scare it off the road. Doing so may confuse the animal and cause it to act unpredictably, especially in an unfamiliar setting like a road that’s lit up by a car’s bright headlights. Stay calm, and be prepared to steer cautiously the side of the road.

3. Stay alert.  Put the phone down. Pay attention. The more focused you are, the more likely you will see potential hazards ahead of time -- not at the last second.

So pack up the kids and take a drive in the country this fall! Animals can be unpredictable -- so you need to stay focused.

Source: The Federal Highway Administration,
Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study: Report To Congress.
Photo credit: Christina Spicuzza, IMG_4004.
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