An estimated 1 million to 2 million motor vehicle crashes involving a large animal (like deer) occur each year, according to the Pew Research Center. But what about smaller animals, like wild turkeys or skunks? While roadkill numbers for game birds and little critters are difficult to track, one study (1) in New England extrapolated the area’s crash data across the United States and estimated these annual roadkill numbers:
- 41 million squirrels
- 26 million cats
- 22 million rats
- 19 million opossums
- 15 million raccoons
- 6 million dogs
- 350,000 deer
In other words, it’s fairly safe to assume small animals are involved in a large number of collisions annually and can cause costly auto insurance claims (although declining road trip traffic in 2020 helped prevent thousands of animals become roadkill).
So, here are some helpful tips to help you avoid hitting any turkeys, armadillos, possums, squirrels or other smaller creatures and some guidance on what to do if you don’t manage to dodge them on a future drive.
What to Do If You Hit a Turkey or Small Animal
While we hope you can avoid any collisions with wildlife, the road is unpredictable, and it’s important to be prepared. If you hit a turkey or other small animal you should:
- Pull over as soon possible and check for damage. If a bird is lodged in your windshield and limiting visibility, it’s vital for you to find a safe spot to stop your vehicle. Even if you just hit an armadillo or raccoon, it’s never a bad idea to stop and assess any potential damage. If you’re stopping on the side of the road, make sure to turn on your hazards.
- Call the police and/or emergency services. If the accident causes injuries or significant damage to your car, an official report will be helpful when you file a claim. If anyone in your vehicle requires medical attention, call emergency services.
- Take photos. When you go to file a claim, photos from the scene are useful. Make sure to capture pictures of the road, vehicle damage, and any injuries you or your passengers suffer.
- Call roadside assistance or get a tow, if necessary. If you have a roadside assistance plan and your car is damaged badly, now is the time to put it to use. If you don’t have a roadside policy and your car is damaged, call a local tow company. Do not drive your vehicle if it has been compromised at all.
- Contact your insurer and file a claim. Call your agent to file a claim or start one online as soon as possible. This is the best way to get your car back to 100% and to make sure you get reimbursed for any injury expenses.
How Likely Are You to Hit a Turkey?
After nearly going extinct a century ago, the wild turkey population has rebounded to approximately 6.5 million spread across 49 states (sorry, Alaska), according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In other words, a turkey could cross the road in front of you just about anywhere in the country!
With so many turkeys out and about, it should be no surprise that a quick Google search turns up plenty of results for turkey-related accidents and warnings from authorities. So, while you certainly shouldn’t sit in fear of turkeys, they might be more of a threat to your ride than you think!
How Do I Avoid Hitting a Turkey on a Road Trip?
The best thing you can do is avoid a run-in with wildlife entirely! Here are some helpful tips to help you steer clear of any fowl play.
Obey the speed limit:
This tip is one of the best ways to stay safe on the road, regardless of the circumstances. If you’re not driving too quickly, you’ll have more time to react to animals, and if you do end up in a collision, the damage will likely be less severe.
Pay extra attention in the early morning hours and at dusk:
Many animals aren’t as active during the middle of the day, and when they are active, visibility isn’t as good. Make sure to be fully focused during these times. It’s also worth noting turkeys might be more active during their mating season (late February through mid-summer).
Distracted driving is always dangerous, but if you are driving somewhere you might come across deer, turkeys, elk, armadillos, etc., be absolutely certain the road has your undivided attention.
Assume there is more than one:
When you see a deer, turkey, or another animal, assume there is more than one. Many animals travel in herds (or in the case of turkeys, rafters), so be prepared for others to appear, even if you don’t see them.
Use your high-beam lights:
If you’re traveling at night, use your brights. They’re on your car for a reason, and the extra visibility could save your life!
What Should I Do If I See a Smaller Animal in the Road Ahead?
If you see an animal in the road ahead, it’s important to remain calm. Slow down in a controlled manner and honk your car’s horn to alert the creature of your presence and to hopefully scare it away, according to DriversEd.com. If the animal stands its ground, do not swerve or slam your brakes. While striking any size animal can cause damage to your car, you don’t want to lose control and flip or end up hitting a vehicle, pedestrian, tree, or another object.
Will My Insurance Pay for Damages to My Car If I Hit a Turkey (or Other Animal)?
Wondering if you’re covered should your car strike an animal? Well, it depends.
Liability-only insurance helps pay for injuries to another person or damage to their vehicle/property in an accident you cause. It won’t protect you or your car if you hit a turkey. However, comprehensive coverage (other than collision coverage), protects you financially if your car is stolen, vandalized, damaged by a natural disaster, or hits an animal.
Want to make sure you’re covered whether you hit another car, a deer, a turkey, or a telephone pole? Give Direct Auto a call or stop by our nearest location today because any animal you hit is uninsured!