Deer, cows and even squirrels are to blame for more than 26,000 injuries along the nation’s roads each year, the government said Thursday.
It is the first time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ever examined how many people suffer non-fatal injuries in car accidents involving animals.
In half of the animal-related accidents surveyed in 2001-02, motorists were injured by hitting the animal while the other half were hurt by swerving to avoid hitting the animals, said Ann Dellinger of CDC’s motor vehicle injury prevention team.
“We can’t really say whether it’s better to brake or better to swerve and avoid the animal,” Dellinger said. “You have to drive responsibly and make sure that you are buckled up.”
Each year, about 200 people die in animal-related crashes out of the nearly 44,000 traffic fatalities nationwide. There were 247,000 crashes involving animals in 2000, the latest federal highway data available.
The CDC doesn’t know if the number of car-animal accidents are on the rise. They typically happen on rural roads or highways. Although nearly nine out of 10 such accidents involve deer, the CDC’s crash study also found cows, squirrels, bears, dogs and raccoons.
The CDC said putting tall fences at deer crossing spots and channeling deer to underpasses would help, but noted the cost might be prohibitive for many public roads budgets.