Close encounter with a moose

Three weeks ago I was driving north on Rt. 91 at 73 mph (cruise control) at night with my bright lights on, when I saw something in the road. A few seconds later I realized it was a moose, standing directly in my lane. I swerved, missing it by a foot or two. So my questions are, how far away was the moose when I first saw something (what is the effective range of high beams on a dark night)? And should I have immediately braked when I first saw anything (what’s the stopping distance at 73mph)?

The reflective range of your lights depends on whether their light shines on something reflective or not, and the weather at the time. Signs are reflective. Moose are not. You’d see a sign on the side of the road WAY before you see a moose. Any fog, rain, or snow would reduce the distance enormously.

Whether you could have come to a complete stop before hitting the moose also depends on many variables, but it wouldn’t have hurt to brake. Better to hit a moose at a slower speed than at a higher speed.

I calculate 73 mph to be 107 ft/sec, so in the few seconds it took you to recognize the moose you were already several hundred feet closer than when you first noticed it.

You’re lucky. If you’d hit the moose it probably would have totaled your Prius.

Yes, you should have braked IMMEDIATELY. The strength of headlights varies, and is affected by the adjustment and load in the car (trunk). Today’s headlights are strong egough to keep you out of trouble on clean and dry roads. If you take a driver’s eye test you’ll be told that the average reaction time of a normal driver is 1/10 of a second.

Some years ago a had a ride with a 78 year old retired clergyman. He veered into a truck and nearly killed us both. He was agiven a vision and reaction test and his reaction time was 3/4 second. He immediately lost his license. I felt sorry for the guy, but it was for his own and other’s safety.

Years ago my brother and I drove a 1963 Buick Riviera to California from Detroit. My brother was driving across Colorado that night and I was snoozing. A large elk suddenly appered in the headlights and my brother jumped on the somewhat inadequate brakes and brought the car to a screeching halt, still more than 100 feet from the animal.

If you have ever seen pictures or the real thing of a car colliding with a moose, it’s not pretty. The last one I saw was a Camaro which had the top completely sheared off by the moose, the 2 occupants were decapitated. Collisions with camels in the Middle East produce the same results.

Although I love animals, some caveats:

  1. If the animal is biggger than your car (taller), try to stop or steer around it. A collison will be very bad for you.

  2. If the animal is smaller than your car, try to steer around it or stop IF YOU CAN SAFELY DO SO.

  3. If you cannot do the above, brake safely and drive straight on and you will safe yourself.

My wife recently hit a young bear on a Rocky Mountain highway. The bear was collared and escaped, but later died of its injuries. However the collison was unavoidable and she would have put herself in grave danger had she tried to avoid the collison.

Your post highlights an important aspect of driving with the Cruise on. People often get dosy or distracted to where they cannot react fast enough to strange objects on the road.

And moose are particularly bad to hit - they’re so tall they’ll slide across the hood and land in your lap! 600-1,200 pounds of moose will do you some damage…

In addition to the excellent headlight effectiveness variables already mentioned, add the amount of contrast between the animal and its background and how clean the headlights are. And whether the animal looks into your headlights. And how clean your windshield is.

Since you drive in couuntry where moose roam, let me suggest that if you’re not already obsessive about clean windows and headlight lenses you become obsessive. Clean glass and clean lenses make a far, far, far bigger difference on how quickly you spot a problem developing than people seem to realize. And include the side windows…if you need to make a sudden evasive maneuver it’s nice to know what’s beside you.

I see more vehicles with crap all over the windows and headlights, and only the windshield wiper area cleaned, than you could imagine. It amazes me every time that people drive around like that. By the way, I’m obsessive about keeping my rearview mirrors clean too.

As Col. Hogan (of “Hogan’s Heroes”) said to Schultz; “A clean car is a happy car!”.

Agree; I even clean my glasses thoroughly when driving in unknown and difficult situations.

I even keep a “kit” in my car that includes a spray bottle with winter windshield wash and a roll of paper towels. I’m a fanatic about clean glass. In the “sap’s runnin’” season I add a bottle of GooGone. I hate it when a big blob of pine sap drips onto the windshield. And I’ve had it happen more than once.

Good visability is such a cheap and simple accident prevention action. I don’t understand why so many can’t be bothered.

PS: I miss that show.

It takes twice the distance to stop from 73 MPH as it does from 52 MPH. Stopping distance is directly proportional to the square of the initial speed.

In case some one didn’t mention it, I see references to either/or when it comes to braking/steering. Jumping on and staying on the brakes and still trying to steer around moose was your best course of action with abs. Brake aggressively and steer. ABS eliminates the decision making during emergency maneuvers with where you steer being the only one necessary.