Collisions with deer result in billions of dollars in vehicle damage and almost 200 fatalities every year. While there is always a risk of coming into contact with these animals, autumn can be an especially dangerous time, as it is deer mating season and there are more of them around. Drivers should be aware how to avoid collisions with deer in order to be better prepared on the road.
Smaller vehicles definitely take the brunt of damage when they come into contact with large animals. However, deer collisions can result in loss of revenue for large commercial trucking companies as well. Not only is there damage to the fleet vehicles, but also to the loads that are being transported. Situations in which the driver swerves to avoid hitting the animals can be especially dangerous, as the size of the truck can result in flipping of the rig or collision with other vehicles.
Stay Alert in High Risk Areas
Although deer sightings can occur anywhere, there are certain areas that tend to have a higher incidence of animal presence. In order to avoid collisions with deer, staying extra alert in these situations is important. The following circumstances call for increased vigilance:
- Signs – areas with higher animal populations typically have signs along the road, warning drivers of their presence. Keep speeds at a minimum and scan the area regularly.
- Mating season – the mating season for deer is at the beginning of fall in many areas of the country. The season for moose and elk is during September and October, and horses tend to mate more in the spring and summer.
- Less-populated states – states and regions that have fewer people tend to have heavier animal populations, and extra care should be taken
- Past sightings – drivers who spend a lot of time on the road may notice a pattern of areas in which there are more deer or other large animals
- Higher activity times – deer tend to be out more during the early morning and early evening hours, and these are often the times it is harder for drivers to see
- Be aware of the pack – deer typically travel with others. If one is crossing, keep in mind there are probably others behind and drive with caution.
General Safety Precautions
Staying alert in situations in which more deer may be around is a good start to avoiding deer collisions. However, there are other tips that all drivers can follow in order to stay safe on the road.
When driving on a multi-lane road, staying in the center lane is the best place to steer clear of hitting an animal. This allows for a larger space for deer, and gives the driver more time to respond in the event a deer does run onto the road.
Drivers should refrain from swerving. This results in a loss of control and an increased chance of collision with another vehicle. Because deer are unpredictable, swerving can even cause the driver to end up in their changed path.
Drivers should make use of their horn if a deer is sighted. A long blast can frighten the animal and keep them off the road. Hood whistles and other deer scaring alerts have been shown to be ineffective in keeping accidents to a minimum.
To help avoid collisions with deer, drivers should not rely on their headlights. They should not be in overdrive, nor should they be flashed to warn deer. Light can actually temporarily paralyze the deer, in which case they wouldn’t move off the road in time. Also, if the driver needs to stop, applying the brakes slowly and smoothly is the best method.
Although it does not necessarily prevent a collision, wearing seatbelts at all times is important. If the brakes are used forcefully to stop, the safety belt will help prevent injuries. In the unfortunate event of an accident with a large animal, seatbelt use can prevent much more serious effects such as flying through the windshield.
In the Event of a Collision
While following the above guidelines can greatly cut down on the chances of collision, there are times when impact cannot be avoided. If this occurs, there are certain steps drivers should take.
- When it is safe, drivers should pull over to the side of the road, allowing other vehicles to move by.
- Passengers should remain in the vehicle with the hazard lights on until it is safe.
- If the deer is alive, leave it alone. It could be injured and confused, making it dangerous to approach.
- Police should be contacted as well as ambulance services if there are injuries to the driver or passengers. Alert them to the presence of the deer in the case of it being a hazard in the road.
- Commercial truck drivers should contact their supervisor to report the accident, and drivers of personal vehicles should call their insurance company.