The Risk of Collisions with Wildlife

Collisions with wildlife can not only be damaging to your vehicle but can be fatal as well. It is important to ensure that your teen is educated on the signs and know what to do when wildlife appears on the road. In 2017, there were over 200 deaths from drivers getting into collisions with wildlife and even more injuries. (IIHS, 2019) Some states have a higher risk of wildlife collisions than others, with West Virginia having the highest risk and Hawaii having the lowest. Check out the table below for the top 5 states with the highest risk of vehicle and animal collisions.

As a parent, what are the necessary things that you need to ensure that your teen knows how to watch for and prevent one of these collisions?

The Signs

When wildlife is common in a particular area or roadway, a yellow-diamond shaped sign (depending on your location) with the figure of an animal will be posted on the side of the road, which warns drivers to drive with caution. It is essential that when your teen sees this signage, they are prepared for any wildlife to appear. Instead of having your teen only think about how they should react when an animal darts onto the roadway, have them take the necessary precautions in addition.

Taking Precautions

First and foremost, the first thing your teen should ensure is that they are not speeding. Speeding increases the chance that they will not see an animal, which increases their risk of getting into a collision. Next is to drive cautiously and watch for animals. Provide your teen with the following tips on recognizing if wildlife is on or near the road, especially during darker hours.

  • Scan each side of the road frequently instead of just staring straight ahead, watch for:
  • Any movement on the road or roadside
  • Shining eyes (indicate that your headlights are reflecting off of an animal’s eyes)
  • Oncoming traffic flickering their lights or warning that something is up ahead
  • Reflectors on the road that appear and disappear (an animal may be standing in front of it)

Stress the importance to your teen that they do not risk anything that will limit their visibility. Keep the windshield and lights clean. If your teen’s headlights are not bright enough, consider upgrading them. The better your teen can see, the more likely they will be able to avoid a collision.

When a Collisions with Wildlife are Unavoidable

In some cases, the crash may be inevitable, so it is best to know what to do. The Wildlife Collision Prevention Program, provides a few tips on how to reduce the impact of the collision:

Depending on the animal, risk increases during certain times of the year, but your teen should always be aware of the risk. The risk also increases during certain areas where it is more likely that wildlife will be around, which include:

  • Near creaks
  • Long stretches of highway
  • Forage near the road

What You Can Do

Ensuring that your teen is well educated on the risks, precautions, and what do to in wildlife situations while driving is key. As a parent, while your teen is practicing driving, get them in the habit of scanning the road and being aware of their surroundings. Find out which animals are prevalent in your area and provide your teen with information on where these animals will most likely appear and during which time of the day.


animal crossing signage


Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (2019). Facts + Statistics: Deer vehicle collisions. [Photo]. Retrieved from

Wildlife Collision Prevention Program. (2020). How Can Drivers Reduce the Chances of Having a Wildlife Collision? [Photo]. Retrieved from


Coach Bill

Coach Bill

Bill is the Managing Partner of Coaching New Drivers and has a vast background in driver education. Bill is passionate about technology-based driver assessment and has gained extensive knowledge and experience through lecturing on driving topics across North America, Australia, and Asia. Bill is a parent to two teens who he has also successfully coached during the Learner’s permit stage.

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