While autumn brings the glorious color display of leaves along the highway, it’s also the start of fall breeding season for deer. That means motorists need to exercise extra caution during the months of October through December to watch out for deer on the highway and reduce the risk of a deer-vehicle crash.
Besides damage to the vehicle, any collision with a deer can result in injuries or deaths, particularly if the vehicle strikes another vehicle, leaves the roadway or rolls over.
How to avoid a close encounter with a white-tail deer
There are some common sense tips to follow that can help you avoid hitting a deer with your car.
- Slow down after sundown and before sunrise. Dawn and dusk are the times to slow down in deer-populated areas. You may be on the way to or from work and otherwise preoccupied, but this is not the time to become lax at the wheel. Stay alert.
- Be extra cautious on two-lane roads. If you’re traveling along two-lane roads or in an area with deer signs posted, be extra vigilant as deer are likely to appear out of nowhere and be directly in your path at any time. In areas with a heavy deer population, keep alert not only during the fall rut season but year-round as well.
- Be on the look-out for stragglers after one deer has crossed the road. Just because you’ve seen a deer ahead of you cross the road, this doesn’t mean you should let your guard down and resume higher speed. Deer frequently travel in groups and in single file. Sometimes, after one deer has crossed, other deer use that as a signal to also cross, and they do so blindly, just following the deer ahead. Deer waiting on the sides to cross may be startled by an approaching vehicle, darting out from any direction without warning.
- If you see deer on the side of the road, slow down. Fall is the time when bucks may begin chasing does. Other times, they may pursue with their heads to the ground nosing a scent trail. And deer will travel up to 40 miles or more during the fall season, up considerably from their normal four to five miles on average. That means drivers need to be always looking out for deer during the October through December timeframe.
How to minimize injury in a deer-vehicle crash
You can’t avoid deer-vehicle collisions in all situations. But there are some things that conservation officers, law enforcement and safety experts advise you can do to help minimize injuries to you and your passengers.
- Always wear your seat belts. The single-most important safety precaution you can take is to make sure that you and all your vehicle’s passengers wear their seat belts. Make sure child safety seats are properly secured and children firmly restrained with safety belts.
- Don’t swerve. Since most injuries and deaths occur when motorists swerve to avoid hitting a deer on the road, it’s important to stay in your lane and maintain control of the car. If you swerve to avoid a deer, this could send your vehicle skidding into another vehicle or cause it to roll over or leave the roadway. When a driver fails to recognize and react to a skid, they are more likely to lose control of their vehicle.
- Brake firmly and hold onto the steering wheel with both hands. Regardless of how you feel about hitting an animal, in this case, a large deer, it is in your best interest to maintain control of your vehicle before, during and after a crash.