Weather in Colorado can be as unpredictable as drivers themselves. While most residents remember the basics when it comes to bad-weather driving, even the most seasoned drivers can forget to keep in mind the state’s abundant wildlife and the particular danger they present on the Colorado highways.
They should, however, understand the threat. Motor vehicle collisions with wildlife have been steadily climbing over the past four years. In 2016, motorists killed more than 4,600 deer, a 50 percent jump over the last three years and much higher than the 10-year average of 3,300 accidents annually. In the Denver metropolitan area alone, 425 car accidents involved wildlife in 2016.
Based on data from the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association, the cost of an animal-vehicle accident is more than $3,400. Many times accidents occur when another driver acts negligently when they encounter wildlife on the road. If you’ve been in an accident because of another driver’s actions, contact a Denver injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Colder Weather Sends Wildlife on the Move
In the winter, hungry animals migrate to better foraging areas in lower elevations, which also happens to be near the busier roadways, creating hazards for motorists.
“As days shorten, temperatures drop and snow begins to fall, many wildlife species move from their high elevation summer ranges in the mountains and plateaus and travel to lower elevation winter ranges in the foothills and valleys,” CDOT biologist Mark Lawler explained. “The essential habitats for these animals are intersected by Colorado’s highways, forcing wildlife to cross roadways in search of food, water, space and shelter.”
Southwest and Northwest Colorado both saw the most collisions in 2016, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the state’s wildlife-related car accidents.
Drivers are not out of the woods in the spring and summer, when wildlife is on the move. As Lawler explains, ““We need to understand that while roads have been built for our convenience, they are sometimes paved in the middle of animal movement corridors. As weather becomes milder the animals’ natural instinct sends them to desirable locations in search of food and water sources which means crossing our state’s roads and highways.”
Tips for Avoiding Wildlife
CPW advises drivers to:
- Slow down. Swerving at high speeds increases the danger of an accident. Moderate speeds maintain a driver’s reaction time and allow an appropriate response to animals on or near roads.
- Stay alert, especially if you’re driving between dusk and dawn. This is when deer and a lot of other Colorado wildlife are the most active and much more likely to be crossing the road.
- Scan ahead and watch for movement and shining eyes along roadsides. If you see one animal, it’s probably not alone.
- Obey traffic signs, particularly wildlife warning signs. Though incidents can happen anywhere, transportation authority’s try to reduce the number of incidents by posting signage and lowering speeds in areas where wildlife are known to be active.
- When you see animals on or near the road, slow down or stop, honk your horn, and/or flash your headlights. This warns the animal to avoid the road and alerts other drivers to the potential hazard.
- Always wear seat belts. Unfortunately, not every collision is avoidable, and the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration states that the risk of serious injury and death in a crash is cut in half when drivers are wearing their seat belts.
The most careful drivers can still find themselves involved in an accident if a nearby driver isn’t paying attention or is otherwise driving recklessly. If you’ve been hurt in collision, make sure you report the incident to the Colorado Highway Patrol, then reach out to the Denver personal injury lawyers at Burg Simpson Colorado by calling 303-792-5595. You can also complete our online Free Case Evaluation form.