Driver in cow vs. car collision says reflective ear tags may help prevent crashes

UTAH -- A victim of a cow vs. car collision is speaking out about what could have saved her from crashing into and killing a cow.

There are around 800,000 cows in Utah, and if even one of those get loose or end up on the road at night, it can be devastating.

“I've driven this road hundreds of times, and I was watching for deer,” said Colleen Higgins.

On September 29, Higgins' car was totaled on Highway 123 when she collided with a cow. It happened the same week that another car crashed into some cows in Sanpete County, and in that case two of the victims were flown to hospitals.

But to have two accidents within a week involving cows is pretty significant. Higgins' car was smashed, but thankfully no one in her family was seriously injured. The bumps and bruises have healed, but what hasn't gone away is the shock of how it all happened.

Higgins was driving home from seeing family when she saw brake lights ahead and slowed down.

"All of the sudden there were 4 to 5 cows right in the middle of the road, hardly any room, split-seconds to decide what I was going to do," she recalled. "If I go left I'll hit all the cows. If I turn right, I'll roll the van. So, I hit into the one cow that was in our lane."

She was the first of three cars to hit the cow.

"So after I hit the cow, the butt end of the cow came and hit my passenger door and broke out the window," Higgins said.

The cow did not survive.

"it was like hitting a brick wall," Higgins said.

While Higgins was driving through some farmland, she wasn't driving through an open range area.

"There are deer signs, but I've never seen a cow sign," she said.

The cows on the road that night did not have reflective ear tags. They were dark cows and hard to spot in the dark of night, even with the car's headlights on.

"If there was any inclination that there was something that we could see, reflective, I think I could have maybe slowed down a little bit quicker," Higgins said.

Higgins' story is one of the many reasons reflective ear tags for cows are important. They make animals more visible and couple potentially save people’s lives.

"If there wasn't that car in front of me tapping on the brakes, I would have not seen the cows at all, and I would have hit it at 60 miles an hour," Higgins said.

Utah Highway Patrol says when people are in open range areas it’s their responsibility to look out for cattle. But, in cases like Higgins where the cows are on fenced lands and get loose, it’s up to the county prosecutor to decide if there will be any charges filed against the animal's owner.