Dealing with Bears While Driving

By: Carly Stephenson Email
By: Carly Stephenson Email

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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) -- If you're out on the roads, chances are you could see a bear crossing the highway for food.

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, 58 bears have been killed on Virginia roads this year.

Kenneth Halvorsen, a claims manager with Rockingham Group, said it's best to try to slow your car down and hit the animal straight on.

He said it's more dangerous for you to swerve because you could hit another car or a pole and hurt yourself more.

The main way to stay in control of your car is to stay alert and stay in your lane as best you can when you have no choice but to hit an animal.

"In fact, accidents like that produce over 170 fatalities and 12,000 injuries every year," said Halvorsen.

If you have comprehensive coverage or collision insurance, you can make a claim.

Otherwise Halvorsen said you'd need to pay out of pocket.

In general, he recommends staying alert.

"Travel at a safe speed, be very observant of your surroundings. Know if you're in an area that's more likely to have a population of dear or bear," said Halvorsen.

Conservation police officer Wayne Billhimer said bears are coming out of the woods because of an acorn shortage.

"It used to be unusual to hear or see a bear in Harrisonburg, but I can remember just, I don't remember if it was last year or recently, when a bear was seen at Quaker Steak and Lube, you know that was a big deal," said Billhimer.

If you're out grilling or have food around, they want it.

"And the bear they have a great nose, they can smell that grease from a long ways away. So what they're doing, they're coming down and they're eating people's trash, they're licking on grills," said Billhimer.

If that hunger brings them your way, Halvorsen said, it's about your safety first.

"It's not like you're intentionally trying to hit the animal, but the action that we recommend is the action that maintains control of the vehicle. reduce the speed and stay in your lane," said Halvorsen.

Billhimer said some people hit bears because they want parts of them.

If you do hit the bear you aren't entitled to it, you have to call a conservation police officer and get a check in card in order to own it. is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

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