Superstitious people sometimes believe that if a bird hits your windshield, it means that somebody in your family has just passed away. While few people have ever had this experience, a bird collision is definitely bad luck if you suffer damage to the windshield. Find out why the risk of hitting a bird increases on the highway, and learn more about what you should do if one of these creatures hits your windshield.
The science of bird collisions
Scientists have conducted research to find out why birds are unable to avoid hitting car windshields. According to the BBC, experts estimate that at least 80 million birds die in the United States every year when they hit a car windshield, and researchers wanted to find out how to save the distress, danger and money these incidents can cause.
The researchers used turkey vultures for the experiment as the birds commonly feed on carcasses in the road, often leading to windshield incidents. The team discovered that the birds' natural defenses failed when cars approached at speeds above ninety kilometers per hour because the creatures' neurons couldn't process the information quickly enough. It's this cognitive overload that also affects rabbits caught in a car's headlamps.
What to do after the impact
The impact of a bird on your windshield is likely to give you a fright. It's important to try to stay calm. Don't swerve or slam on the brakes, or you may cause a more serious collision with other vehicles around you. Continue to drive until it's safe to pull over and inspect the damage.
When you're in a safe spot, get out and inspect the damage. If the bird has cracked or chipped the glass, inspect the size and position of the crack carefully. According to Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration laws, it is illegal to drive a car with a damaged windshield under certain conditions.
Legally, you can drive if you can cover the damage with a one-inch disc, as long as the crack isn't closer than 3 inches to another damaged area. If the crack intersects another area of damage, you cannot continue to drive the car. You can normally get a specialist to repair a small area of damage.
If the damage is more significant, you should call a mechanic and get him to tow you to the repair shop. A damaged windshield is dangerous, particularly if you have another collision, so don't risk you or your passengers' safety.
Driving safely with minor damage
If you decide that it is safe (and legal) to drive your car after the accident, you should still take care. Certain actions could worsen the crack, making your car unsafe to drive.
- Ask a specialist to repair the damage as soon as possible. Don't put it off.
- Avoid using your air conditioner or defroster. The extremes of temperature can worsen the damage.
- Try not to jolt the car. Don't slam the doors, as increased pressure inside the car could worsen the crack.
- Don't wash the vehicle, as water could increase the crack size.
- Stick clear tape over the crack to avoid dirt getting in. Dirt and debris can make it harder to repair the damage.
Go to a professional windshield repair service for help. A specialist can use the latest techniques to repair the crack or chip.
Helping injured birds
At high speeds, a collision is likely to kill any bird, but some birds can survive these incidents. If you spot the bird that hit your windshield, wait and watch the creature for a few minutes. In some cases, the bird will recover and fly off. If not, you should consider taking the bird to an animal hospital. If you don't want to handle the bird, call for help.
If you decide to move the bird, keep it upright to help it breathe. Place the bird in a box with some ventilation. Put the lid on, so the bird stays calm in the dark. You shouldn't try to feed the bird before you take it to the nearest vet or animal hospital.
Millions of birds die in windshield collisions every day, which is distressing for many American drivers. If a bird hits your car, make sure you deal with the damage quickly and thoroughly, but spare a moment for the injured bird too.