This may seem like a ludicrous scenario, but stay with us here. You're driving down a winding country road. Suddenly, a large bird floats across the road and right into your windshield. Glass and feathers are everywhere, but you have no idea what you just hit.
There's a good chance the bird you hit is a wild turkey. And there's also a good possibility it caused more than just windshield damage.
Wild turkey populations exist in 49 states (all but Alaska). While it's uncommon to see these birds wandering up and down the road in an urban setting, many rural and some suburban neighborhoods may see wild turkeys out and about, especially during this time of year. Spring is mating season for turkeys, and the gobblers tend to get a bit more active and careless near roads during these months.
While your average wild turkey is thankfully not the 30-pound roaster you might buy around Thanksgiving, these large land birds can still average 17 pounds or more and can fly. As such, you may have to contend not just with turkeys running across the road, but also flying across the street and straight into your car.
Regardless of whether you hit one on the road or while it's midflight, there will likely be damage to your car. So what can you do if you happen to see a wild turkey fluttering about the side of the road? Here are a few tips that might help prevent a broken windshield and dented front bumper.
Don't slam on the brakes of swerve.
It's important to stay in your lane while driving, even when you see a wild animal near your car. Slamming on the brakes could result in a disastrous accident if a car is behind you. The same is true if you swerve—you may end up sideswiping another car or running into oncoming traffic.
Slow down gradually.
Assuming you're driving the speed limit and practicing attentive driving, you will likely have time to effectively slow down as you approach the turkey in the road. And if there's a turkey or two on the side of the road, slowing down as you pass prevents spooking them or, in the case where they run into the road, gives you more time to avoid an accident.
If an accident is unavoidable, stay straight then pull off to the side of the road carefully.
Sometimes accidents with wild turkeys are unavoidable. Either the animal has run into the road at the last second, or it has flown across your path at just the right moment for a crash. If this is the case, don't panic. Your vehicle will generally be able to take the impact without injuring you. The bird may not fare so well, but you will. If the accident with the bird is unavoidable, let it happen. Then, pull over to the side of the road slowly and safely to assess the damage.
If the bird is still on your windshield, do not continue to drive. Pull off the road immediately. Also be sure to call roadside assistance. You may need a tow after an impact with a turkey, as your windshield may be cracked to the point where it's unsafe to drive the car. Additionally, if the turkey is alive and on your car or still in the road, do not attempt to remove it. Call the police for assistance because the animal may be dangerous.
Carry the Proper Insurance to Recover Costs
Protecting your car from a wild turkey collision is a mixture of attentive driving, luck, and carrying the right insurance. However, you will need to take a look at your insurance coverage to make sure you can effectively recoup your costs after an accident—or after a run-in with a wild turkey.
As The Indianapolis Star succinctly puts it, wild turkeys don't carry car insurance. As such, you'll need to consider the fact that both you and your car insurance will be on the hook for costs.
There are a few policy considerations here. If you carry your state's minimum coverage, you'll likely be responsible for most, if not all, of the cost for repairs, depending on the extent of the damage. That's because many states only require you to carry insurance that helps cover the costs of damages to other parties in accidents that you're responsible for.
For example, in Virginia, your car insurance needs to cover bodily injury, property damage, uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury, and uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage. None of these cover your costs if you're in an accident with a wild turkey or inanimate object. If you carried just the minimum, you would be responsible for the full brunt of the costs.
You might consider windshield coverage because many accidents with wild turkeys do result in just windshield damage. Windshield coverage replaces your windshield, typically without a deductible.
However, your best option may be comprehensive coverage. This type of coverage protects you against perils such as theft, vandalism or hitting a wayward animal. Depending on your insurance company, you may be able to find a policy that provides coverage without having to a pay a deductible in the case of a large collision.
Thankfully, an incident with a wild turkey is unlikely to result in a totaled vehicle. Nevertheless, only carrying your state's minimum insurance may result in a lot of out-of-pocket expenses for you, even if the damage is seemingly minimal.
Maxime Rieman is Product Manager at ValuePenguin. Educating and assisting shoppers about financial products has been Rieman's focus, which led her to joining ValuePenguin, a consumer research and advice company based in New York. Previously, she was product marketing director at CoverWallet and launched the personal insurance team at NerdWallet.
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