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Was that a moose I hit, or a brick wall?

As December and January creep closer, so does the rise in moose-related collisions by motorists which are two to five times more likely during those months. As many as 10,000 to 13,000 accidents occur yearly, though many are never reported. For years highway safety engineers have struggled with finding a better way to keep moose safely off the highways with mixed results. So when it comes to keeping the big animals out of your headlights, and off your bumper, consider a few tips to stay safe.

It may seem obvious but stands repeating: slow down. You won’t be able to avoid colliding into a moose until you see it, and where forest meets the road, a big fellow might be just out of view until it’s too late. It just isn’t possible to fence in every road and highway, so keep an eye out and a little lighter weight on the pedal.

Once you hit the brake pedal, most of what happens next will be largely outside of your control. Speed limits are regulated based on sight distance and since a moose is a lot like an unpredictable child in many regards, even seeing one standing calmly alongside the road may not mean he won’t jump out without warning. Give yourself the room to react quickly rather than finding it too late to apply the brake to avoid a collision. And when it’s dark out, it is often very difficult to see a moose, unlike a deer. Moose hair is dark and doesn’t reflect your headlights as well.

Visibility and speed are your two friends, or enemies, when it comes to avoiding a moose. It is easy to ‘overdrive’ your headlights. This happens when the speed you are traveling exceeds the ideal illumination of your headlights. Researchers estimate that by driving over 45mph, you are over-stretching the capabilities of a vehicles illumination on low beams.

And lastly, remain alert. By controlling your speed, adjusting for visibility, and keeping an eye out for potential hazards, you’ll keep your car hood in good order, and may save the lives of a few moose in the process.