Swerving to miss any animal is often a natural reaction. However it is also always extremely dangerous. Nobody wants to intentionally hit an animal, above all someone's pet, but swerving should not be the automatic solution to the problem, because it could potentially create larger problems. Unfortunately for smaller animals, it is safer for the driver and passengers to hit the animal versus swerving into oncoming traffic, hitting a ditch and rolling, or hitting a large tree.
On the other hand, hitting a larger animal can have very severe consequences for the driver and his passengers as the animal can be lifted up over the bonnet (hood in North America) and end up in the passenger compartment which normally has serious consequences for the driver and passenger in the car.
So what should we consider:
1. What kind of vehicle are you driving and how high is the top of its bonnet/hood?
2. What is the height of the animal at its shoulders?
3. Should you be using a different vehicle for your trip – SUV versus car?
If in a collision with an animal, the vehicle impacts its legs and not its body, it is likely to come over the bonnet/hood and the collision should be avoided.
In all cases, be aware of animals on the road and adjust speed accordingly. In the case that you see an animal on the road, or approaching the road in front of you, brake hard to scrub off as much speed as possible, either before the collision or before taking avoiding action.
So what animals should you definitely try to avoid hitting (the brake and try and avoid routine) – cattle, moose, elk, eland, kudu, ostriches, horses and elephants J. What animals demand the braking and hit routine – kangaroos, dogs, deer, smaller antelope, sheep, goats, cats, rabbits and birds.
What do you do if you hit an animal?
If it is a pet, such as a dog or cat, (domestic animals), then if a person knowingly strikes and injures a domestic animal, then the person must do all of the following:
(a) Stop at once.
(b) Make a reasonable effort to determine the nature of the animal's injuries.
(c) Give reasonable attention to the animal.
(d) Immediately report the injury to the animal's owner.
(e) If unable to contact the owner of the animal, notify a police officer.
There is an exception, which is dependent on the traffic hazards then existing, so you may not be able to render aid if you hit something on busy motorway/Interstate.
If the animal struck is defined as livestock, such as a cow or horse, then driver’s reaction would depend upon whether the location was open or closed range.
In the USA, "if a driver damages any fixtures or property (including animals) legally upon or adjacent to a highway, then the driver shall:
(a) Take reasonable steps to notify the owner or person in charge of the property of such fact, and of the driver's name, address and the registration number of the vehicle the driver is driving.
(b) Upon request and if available, exhibit any document issued as official evidence of a grant of driving privileges to the driver.
The key word here is legally. If the location of the crash is open range, then the animal is free to roam and can legally be on the road, and so this statute would apply. If it was closed range, then the animal is not legally on the roadway and the statute wouldn't apply, and the animal's owner would be liable.
If the animal hit is considered wildlife, such as a deer or elk, then no statute applies.
However, in all cases where an animal is struck, regardless of whether a driver is required to report, if the struck animal is a traffic hazard, then the police should be notified. If you're able, you can humanely put down a suffering animal or notify the police. In some countries (like Australia) there are Animal injury hotlines, so make sure you have the number if you driving in at risk areas.
Even if the animal is deceased and not in the roadway, it would be helpful if the police were notified so they could call the roads department for removal of the carcass.
Tips to avoid animal accidents
1. Be alert
2. Drive slowly through areas where you expect to find animals
3. Avoid driving at dawn or dusk
Think Safe, Stay Safe