Ok, I’m sure there’s no need to apologize in advance for grossing anyone out, because most of us were ecstatic in 2016 when the Washington legislature passed a law allowing people to take fresh roadkill home for dinner. Now, our state is one of about 20 states that have similar laws recognizing that you shouldn’t just leave a (previously) healthy deer or elk to the vultures.
Some of you are thinking, “Yeah, this is old news. We’ve been dining on roadkill for a long time, even before it was recognized by legislation…” Ok, it may be old news, but like anything, if you aren’t constantly keeping up with the latest developments, you don’t know what you might miss out on.
For instance, if you are an older reader, you might not even recognize the word “roadkill” (less commonly “road kill”), because it didn’t become a common term until the 60’s or 70’s as the interstate highway system was nearing completion. However, just like dangerous glass buildings and windmills, it turns out that cars driving on high-speed roads kill a fairly high number of animals every year. All told, the number of animal deaths reaches the millions.
Over time, as people have become more familiar with this new phenomenon, rules about how we should treat these dead animals have begun to take shape. The main rules are don’t ever eat an animal that is endangered, and if it stinks, don’t take your chances. Many other rules abound.
But what happens to the animals that are too old to eat? Fortunately, there are enterprising individuals everywhere, and they have figured out how to keep our roads clean by rendering the animals into specific byproducts including ingredients for pet food, poultry food, and beef food. And that’s what I saw for the first time as I was driving down a Utah highway last week. As I pulled up to a stoplight, there it was: a Carcass Removal truck and trailer carrying about 8 dead deer.
But this is only one side of the story. Tragically, hundreds of these run-ins with large animals end up with human fatalities as well. Depending on where you live, your chances of running into a deer or other large animal can be as high as 1 in 37. Fortunately, it is pretty rare to hit a deer in Kennewick or in the greater Tri-Cities, though your chances increase as you drive past Yakima or Walla Walla.
However, if you happen to be driving in forested areas where your risk is greater, there are a few things you can do to protect yourself and the passengers in your car. First, you should avoid driving through animal traffic areas around dawn and dusk when visibility is limited. Second, you should slow down. 5-10 miles per hour slower than the speed limit can dramatically increase your ability to avoid colliding with a large animal. And last, you should use your high beams when appropriate.
If you are in the unfortunate situation of colliding with a large animal and you are unable to take advantage of Washington’s salvage laws, please contact local authorities so they can either dispose of the animal or move it to a place where it doesn’t present a danger to other vehicle passing by.
If your vehicle was damaged, your comprehensive insurance coverage should pay for repairs. And if that large animal has an owner, there’s a chance that one of the attorneys at Anderson Law will be able to help you find insurance to cover any other damages.