I have not read this entire thread, but here is my .02:
This is one of those questions with no definitive answer. There are a myriad of things that come together in one of these situations that should affect how you react.
1. What kind of animal is it? If it's a squirrel, obviously you're not going to do any damage to your car if you run its tail over. If it's a deer, you risk having an animal come through your windshield, airbag deployment, fire (a friend of mine hit a deer at 60 mph, came to a stop, got out thinking everything was ok, and watched his car burn to a crisp) loss of control as a RESULT of hitting the deer due to damage, etc...
2. What kind of car are you driving? My friend totaled his Dodge Neon hitting a deer. If you drive a truck, you probably aren't going to do that much damage when it bounces off your steel bumper. If you drive a Lotus, you are going to destroy the entire plastic front end and probably end up with a deer in your face.
3. What are the road conditions like? Is it wet out? Is it snowy? Do you have room to swerve around safely? Are you surrounded by cars? Is there a guardrail immediately to your right, and a box-full of kittens on your left? I'd still rather swerve to avoid a dog even if I skid out if all it means is some flat spots on my tires if I have another two lanes on my right.
4. How much time do you have to avoid it?
5. How competent are you of a driver. I realize this, in itself, is a very subjective question, as everyone considers themselves a good driver, but I think you know what I mean. If you are an 80-year-old grandma, I would hope you wouldn't swerve for a dog (assuming your saw it at all...) because that probably wouldn't end well. Pretty sure Michael Schumacher will just go ahead and swerve since he knows he can handle his vehicle. I personally feel comfortable swerving fairly aggressively for something in my own car (not necessarily in a car I don't normally drive.) I make it a point to learn the limits of my car because I feel much more comfortable driving a vehicle when I know what it can do and how it will react.
I could go on and on. To TRY and answer your question, however, most of the time I try and avoid hitting an animal as long as there are no other vehicles in my immediate vicinity. Partly because I feel I can do so safely, and partly because I really don't want squirrel guts in my wheel wells...
Originally Posted by faber78
if you had enough time to predict your swerve or carefully drive around....then you had enough time to stop.
i think the question was more stated for the sudden response situation.
And to add to this, anyone who I would consider a competent driver, should be able to (on a given road surface) swerve and know more or less what to expect from his vehicle. YES, I KNOW, there are other factors to consider (oil on the road, sinkholes, children in strollers and landmines) BUT if you know your car like I believe anyone who drives SHOULD know their car, you should be able to react and swerve around an unexpected obstacle and at least KNOW what your car is going to do. What I mean is, if you were taken to a big open runway, and sent down it at 60 mph and told to swerve at a random point, ignoring any other factors, on this giant empty road surface, I would hope you would be able to have a rough idea of how your vehicle would react.
Unfortunately, by my logic, 97% of people on the road should have their driver's licenses revoked...
...gotta love America's stringent road tests.
LASTLY (and most importantly) this all goes under the assumption that your reaction in the real world will be anything other than instinct. If you suck at driving, your reaction will probably be entirely wrong. If you're a competent driver, hopefully your reaction will be appropriate for the situation. My one friend once told me "I feel as though I am better prepared now. I always though you had to steer in the opposite direction of the skid, but my driving instructor taught me to steer into the skid." All I could think was, "Great. Now, rather than a clueless driver steering the wrong way and spinning out, we are going to have a "skilled" driver steer the right way, snap his car back around and be even more out of control since he really still has no clue what he is doing."