Coming across animals when you’re out driving can be quite a daunting prospect, particularly if you are a new or recently qualified driver.
Around the world, vehicle collisions with animals are incredibly common.
In the US, for example, it’s estimated that an accident involving an animal and a vehicle occurs once every 39 minutes – a startling statistic.
The UK is probably not much different. There are two types of animal collisions that can occur quite easily.
The first is with a wild animal, such as a deer, badger or fox.
These are especially common in rural areas obviously but most urban conurbations in the UK now have a population of foxes.
When these animals are active at night, they can be hard to spot and fast to move, meaning collisions can occur quite easily.
The other type of animal you need to look out for is a domesticated one.
Obviously, dogs and cats fit into this category.
Anyone who has been a passenger in a car enough times will probably have been unfortunate enough to see a dead cat at the side of the road.
Dogs off leads are also a real concern – they’re also less streetwise than cats and are more likely to run out into the road if they have an opportunity to do so.
Within the domesticated category, we should also consider horses.
Riding horses on the UK roads is pretty common now as well, and with around 3.5million regular horse riders here, it’s highly likely you will encounter a horse on the road at some point.
As ever, the best preparation for these scenarios is to do your research.
Know how to handle each situation and what to look out for.
In this guide, we’re going to look at what to do if you do encounter animals on the road.
In the case of horses, we will give you a step-by-step guide for passing them safely as well as a few things to be aware of in these situations.
We will also look at how to react if you see a warning sign which suggests animals may be around.
Everything from chickens and cows to deer and badgers can be forewarned with signage, but what should you do when you notice these signs?
As ever, we will split this up in to our easy-to-follow sections:
For this section of the guide, we’re going to give you two different step-by-step guides.
First, we will look at how to safely overtake a horse rider on the road.
This is important given just how common a sight that this is.
Secondly, we will briefly explain the steps you should take in the event of an animal warning sign.
Passing A Horse Rider:
Animal Warning Signs:
Driving on roads where animals are can be tough, and for new drivers, it can be quite stressful.
You’re already new to driving, and now you have to pass an animal with its welfare in mind, as well as everything else you are trying to learn, remember and be aware of.
Here are a few little tips of things to look out for in certain situations.
Horse Riders May Give You Signals:
When you’re looking to overtake a horse rider, keep an eye on the rider themselves as well as the road and the animal.
If you’re on a part of the road where they will have a better vantage point, or perhaps they are looking to turn/cross the road, then the rider will give hand and arm signals to indicate what to do or where they are going.
Don’t Be Offended If Horse Riders Don’t Thank You:
If you pass a horse rider considerately, it can be a little annoying for inexperienced drivers if the rider does not wave to thank you.
Riders generally will wave when they can!
Their task, first and foremost, is to be in control of the horse itself, so they may require both hands on the reins at that point.
Don’t Cause An Accident To Save An Animal:
In broad terms, if you swerve to avoid a cat running across the road and in doing so collide with another vehicle, the blame for the accident will rest with you.
Of course, we all want to avoid hitting an animal with our vehicle, but it’s not always possible to do so.
Look For Reflecting Eyes:
If you’re driving at night, a great little tip for helping you identify animals that may be in the dark ahead, or off to the side of the road, is that your car headlights may reflect in its eyes.
If you see a brief little spot of light or reflection while driving at night, it may be an animal, be it a cat, fox, badger or something else entirely.
Slow down – it’s better to be safe than sorry.
As ever, a great port of call to find out some additional information on passing animals on the road is the Highway Code.
Specifically, it’s well worth you taking the time to read the advice for horse riders in the Highway Code (see further resources below).
While it is aimed at riders, by reading it yourself you are arming yourself with that little bit of knowledge so that you know what a rider may be looking out for or looking to do.
It could be of huge benefit!
If you encounter animals on your driving test, or even if you drive within an area where animal warning signs are present, your driving instructor will be watching out for how you handle the situation.
As usual, he is looking for you to be driving with due care and attention, be aware of your surroundings and above all else, be in control of your vehicle.
If you follow the simple steps we have outlined in this guide, and exercise some common sense, you will have nothing to worry about when this type of scenario arises.