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Navigating Wildlife Encounters on the Road

May 13, 2024

Picture this: you’re driving down the road on a quiet summer evening. The trees lining the path are swaying with a soft seasonal breeze. Suddenly and without warning, an animal jumps into the roadway, directly in your path. Do you know what to do?

This year, National Road Safety Week is May 14-20. The Canada Safety Council is urging Canadians to be prepared in the event of interaction with wildlife on the road.

In moments of unexpected challenge on the road, our preparedness becomes of vital importance. It’s not just about knowing what to do, but also having the reflexes, composure, and knowledge that can only be had through proactive training, experience and awareness.

Gareth Jones

President and CEO, Canada Safety Council

The Issue

According to data published by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), 570 people were killed in wildlife-vehicle collisions between 2000 and 2020. This represents 1.1 per cent of all motor vehicle fatalities in that time. More than half of these collisions involved moose, while 32 per cent involved deer.

The bulk of collisions occurred during the summer months (June to August, 42 per cent,) with an additional 33 per cent occurring between September and November.

Don’t Swerve

Instinct may push you to swerve to avoid colliding with the animal. This, however, can be a dangerous maneuver. Animals can tend to move erratically and suddenly, meaning that the place they were when you spotted them may not be where they end up after you’ve had a chance to react.

Moreover, swerving can also lead to loss of control or collision with a different hazard — or, worse, a fellow road user. One-in-three fatal collisions, according to TIRF data, were the direct result of a driver attempting an abrupt change of direction.


A preventative method that can be used to reduce the odds of being caught by surprise is using your vehicle’s bright lights in the morning and evening. This may help you spot the animal on the edge of the road before it enters the roadway.

Additionally, maintain a consistent scan of your surroundings and take extreme caution when driving in areas known to have wildlife. Look for movement on the roadside, shining eyes, and flickering head lights from oncoming traffic which could indicate an animal crossing their path.


The safest approach when faced with most non-moose interactions is to brake firmly, as quickly as is practical, and steer straight while sounding your horn in a series of short bursts. At best, you will either get the vehicle stopped or the deer will bolt out of the path, avoiding a collision. At worst, the reduced speed will limit the impacts of the collision.

Moose, on the other hand, have a unique set of guidelines owing to their stature and weight. If you encounter one in the road, the priority should be avoiding any impact with your roof or windshield. Brake hard to reduce the energy of the impact and aim for the moose’s flank when a collision is inevitable — most of the moose’s weight is in the front half of its body. Crouch in your seat upon impact, as the animal’s body may pose a threat even after the initial point of collision.

Avoid becoming a statistic. Limit your speed, and always keep a close eye on your surroundings to limit your odds of entering into a wildlife-vehicle collision.

Defensive driving is an important tool in any driver’s toolbox. You should be prepared to handle any unexpected situation that arises, whether it involves animals or other road users. Visit the Canada Safety Council’s website for information on how to sign up for our nationally recognized Defensive Driving Course.



For more information, please contact:

Lewis Smith

Manager, National Projects, Canada Safety Council

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