It’s cruel, I know, but I think it bears repeating: If you see a small animal in your path while driving and you are traveling too fast to safely slow down or stop, do not, for the love of God, swerve around it. Just hit it. Go through it. It’s safer that way.
The latest example of a driver swerving and ending up worse than before concerns a white Ferrari 458 that apparently swerved to avoid a raccoon on a canyon road in Southern California early Monday morning, reports the Orange County Register.
“(The driver) took evasive action and ended up hitting the guard rail…and the vehicle ended up going down the embankment,” CHP Officer G. Bautista said.
Thankfully, the driver wasn’t injured. But the same can’t be said of the Ferrari, which is why I’m taking this opportunity to remind you not to serve if there’s a small animal in your path. Obviously, slowing down to a stop is the most ideal situation, but that isn’t always possible.
Swerving puts you, the driver, in greater danger than just running over the animal because suddenly jerking the car’s steering can put you in opposite lanes of traffic, in to a ditch or rolling your vehicle altogether.
Our own David Tracy has had some experience with small animals and swerving himself:
I was a 17-year-old high school senior rushing home from my girlfriend’s house in the countryside, having blown past my parents’ extremely early curfew by HOURS. It was probably about 1 a.m., and I was the only person on the country road, driving my 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee 70 mph when I spotted a possum.
Since the possum was at the very right edge of the lane, I figured I’d swerve a foot or two to spare its life. But at 70 mph, trying to turn a top-heavy Jeep at any appreciable rate is a terrible idea. I lost control.
The Jeep’s tail end lost grip, sending me sliding all the way to the very left side of the road, in the oncoming lane. I turned into the drift, as I had practiced on many snowy days in that very same full-time four-wheel drive Jeep, only to swerve back the other way.
The Jeep used every bit of that county road as it slid from side to side like a pendulum three or four times before the Jeep finally straightened out, and I had it under control.
Sliding sideways on a dark country road at 70 mph: I wouldn’t recommend it. Not even to save the life of a damn rodent.
Be especially careful when you see animals like deer. They like to travel in a herd, so if you see one, chances are high that there are others around.
In fact, the only exception to the “don’t swerve” rule is when you encounter a moose. An adult moose can weigh anywhere between 1,000 to 1,500 pounds and it’s tall. Those long legs basically make it a refrigerator on stilts, so if you hit it head on, the body will come right through your windshield. Definitely swerve for a moose, it’s safer that way.
But for everything else, keep right on your path. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s better than hitting a guardrail.
(h/t to Jeffrey!)