To swerve or not to swerve when an animal is in the road

To swerve or not to swerve when an animal is in the road

GOLETA, Calif. - When it comes to animals in the road, law enforcement agencies differ on what you should do.

A woman found a week after driving off a cliff in the Big Sur area wrote on a Facebook post that she was "passing through Big Surf when a small animal stepped onto the road." 

Angela Hernandez wrote that she swerved and lost control of her Jeep. She doesn't appear to remember much else until she came to in the wreckage of her car as it was filling up with water.

A Department of Motor Vehicles website ( shares advice from driving experts who advise not to swerve.  They recommend hitting the breaks, honking the horn and ducking behind the dashboard if possible.

We asked a California Highway Patrol officer in the Santa Barbara County to weigh in on the swerve, or not to swerve question.

Officer Jonathan Gutierrez said,  “We ask people to brake, do a nice straight line, braking application, try to slow down as much as they can. They should already be driving slow enough for that animal in the roadway. The person that’s driving ultimately has the driver's license they are going to have to make that decision.”

We also asked if drivers should handle small or large animals differently?

Gutierrez responded in a similar way.

"It just depends on the situation,"

He said there is no rule of thumb.

 "You have to basically say you are in a certain situation,  you’re driving, you have to make a decision it has to be the right decision. If you are going at a speed safe enough to stop or if you are going to swerve, it’s on you, you’re going to have to do that as safe as you can.”

He hopes the rescue in Big Sur will raise awareness.

"You should definitely have a high visual horizon, so you are looking up at the roadway your looking 8,10,12 car lengths ahead of you your looking at both sides of the roadway to see if there are any animals. Also when you are driving if you see signs on the side of the roadway the signs are there for a reason,  so if you see a sign that says animal crossing or there may be animals keep your eyes peeled.'

The CHP recommends minimizing distractions.

"You should minimize distractions you should not have your cell phone out, you should not be eating or doing your hair, your makeup," said Gutierrez.


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