Germania Today | Spring 2020

exas is a land of rolling hills, dense forests, wide open plains, and huge populations of wildlife. In most of the state, you can travel the winding highways through the diverse landscape without ever coming into contact with any of the critters that call Texas home. However, with the growing populations of both people and wildlife, our two worlds are bound to collide sooner or later. So how can you avoid animal-vehicle collisions in Texas and what do you do if you can’t? The facts about wildlife collisions in Texas Texas is teeming with both native and non-native species (like feral pigs). While many of them are unlikely to cause any serious damage to your vehicle, there are 1.5 million wild pigs and 3.6 million white- tailed deer. Both of these animals can cause serious trouble for Texas motorists. In fact, these types of accidents have been steadily increasing since 1975. In the past 10 years, Texas has had the highest number of deaths as a result of vehicle-animal collisions. This is a complex issue, but it is primarily due to the increasing number of motorists, growing animal populations, and the rural nature of many Texas roads. Rural roads often have poor lighting that can make it difficult to spot crossing animals. Unlike most major highways, these roads have twists and turns and regularly cut through wooded areas or agricultural fields, where many of these animals live. Because of these factors, your chances of colliding with an animal in Texas are about 1 in 157. While the cost of repairing a vehicle damaged by such an accident can vary, the national average cost per claim is more than $4,500. How to avoid wildlife on Texas roads So what can Texans do to minimize the risk of such devastating encounters? Obviously, we can’t keep the deer from crossing the road (regardless of why it decided to do so). There are, however, plenty of things motorists can do to prevent accidents with our animal neighbors. Stay alert - It can never be said enough that being alert is one of the best ways to stay safe on the road. Deer come out to feed during dusk and usually stay out until dawn. They prefer wooded areas and plots of land with tall vegetation or crops. That’s why it’s important to be on the lookout during the lower-light

hours and when traveling on roads that pass through these environments. There are often signs placed on roads where animal traffic is known to be higher than normal. If you see one of these, be on the lookout! They are there precisely because of past problems with animal crossings and collisions. Keep your brights on - When driving at night, it’s important to use your high beams as long as there isn’t any oncoming traffic. Using your brights can help you see more of the road and allows you to spot the reflective eyes of nocturnal animals like deer. Buckle up - Always wear your seatbelt! Even if you manage to pump the brakes and avoid hitting an animal, the sudden stop can be dangerous if your belt isn’t buckled. Look out for groups - Both deer and wild hogs often travel in large groups. If you spot an animal crossing, there’s a good chance that others are not far behind. That’s why it’s important to be cautious and keep your speed down even if the first animal has finished crossing. Keep it steady - As difficult as it might be, experts say that you should never swerve to avoid striking an animal on the road. Often, a sharp and sudden turn can flip a vehicle or put you in the path of oncoming traffic. Both of these things are far more likely to be fatal than the alternative. Instead, if you spot an animal in the road ahead, engage your brakes firmly, but maintain control of the steering wheel and stay in your lane. Striking an animal is never good, but the force of an oncoming vehicle is far more deadly. Beware rutting season - White-tailed deer are the most active and unpredictable during their yearly rutting season. This is great for hunters, but can be particularly dangerous for drivers. Fortunately, this range is relatively short and takes place between October and December. During this time, it’s important to be extra cautious when driving on rural roads or areas with dense deer populations. Avoid whistles - Deer horns or deer whistles are vehicle attachments that claim to emit sounds which alert deer to oncoming vehicles. While this sounds nice, numerous studies by wildlife researchers have failed to prove their effectiveness. In fact, because deer are so unpredictable, they are just as likely to freeze Continued on page 10

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