How to Avoid Collisions with Deer

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.

  1. When it is safe, drivers should pull over to the side of the road, allowing other vehicles to move by.
  2. Passengers should remain in the vehicle with the hazard lights on until it is safe.
  3. If the deer is alive, leave it alone. It could be injured and confused, making it dangerous to approach.
  4. 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.
  5. Commercial truck drivers should contact their supervisor to report the accident, and drivers of personal vehicles should call their insurance company.

Teens and Big Trucks: Should They Be Allowed to Drive?

Should teens be able to drive big trucks? Right now you can’t drive a rental car until 25, but you can start driving 80,000 pound trucks at 21 interstate and intrastate(in most states) at 18. If a new law passes, younger drivers may soon be able to drive heavy trucks across state borders. Proposed regulation wants to change the age limit for interstate trucking to 18, with some provisional conditions. What do you think? Will this new regulation help get more drivers on the road or is the safety risk much too great?

The Risks of Younger Drivers

Younger drivers are notorious for getting into accidents. Drivers aged 16-19 have the highest annual crash rate and that’s just behind the wheel of a car, not a heavy truck. In states where 18 year olds are allowed to drive 80,000 pound trucks, younger drivers are 4-6 times more likely then 21+ drivers to get in an accident. Safety experts worry this plan could lead to disaster on the road.

While younger drivers are more likely to get in an accident, they are already on road and driving big trucks. In most states current regulation only keeps them from crossing borders, not from driving. Proponents of the law argue that the regulation changes make sense. Right now teens can drive hundreds of miles around a state, but can’t drive 10 miles across a border.

The Benefits of Younger Drivers

There is a need for more drivers and allowing younger drivers to drive interstate could lower recruiting costs and increase the number of applicants available. With transportation costs on the rise, some hope that younger drivers could help slow the rising prices in transportation (contract costs increased 3-5% this year). The law would potentially give fresh out high school graduates more job opportunities.

The Proposed Regulation

The proposed regulation would allow the FMCSA to create a 6 year pilot program allowing younger drivers to cross state lines. The regulation would allow states to enter into agreements with each other allowing the younger drivers. States would be free to place limits on these drivers (like limiting types of cargo, limiting routes, creating hours they can drive, etc.).

The regulation has passed the Senate, but still needs approval from the House of Representatives.

What do you think about this proposed regulation? Should we allow more teen drivers on the road?

 

Hours-of-Service and Safety- Are the New Rules Working?

Those HOS (hours-of-service) rules can certainly get in the way, but the good news is, they seem to be working. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently released a report examining the most recent round of HOS changes (implemented in 2013) and the FMCSA responded to the report and agreed to move forward with the changes.

Positive Impact of HOS Changes

The GAO examined data from the first 18 months of the new HOS regulations. Here’s what they found:

  • Reduction in Drivers Working 65+ Weekly Hours– Drivers in the sample were 24-29% less likely to work more than 65 hours per 8 day week. The number of drivers working over 65 hours was 12% before the rule and decreased to 6% afterwards.
  • Fewer Hours Worked Per Week– The GAO found that the drivers in their study worked about 1.1 to 2.5 fewer hours each 8 day week after the new HOS rule was implemented. This ranges from 2-4.8% fewer hours.
  • Fewer Restarts- Drivers in the sample took fewer restarts per 8 day week (approximately 6.1-6.5% fewer).
  • Less Fatigue– Drivers that comply with the HOS requirements should experience a lower peak fatigue level, especially in the earlier days in their work cycle.
  • No Increase in Early Morning Crashes– They also found no increase in crashes during the 5 a.m. to 9 a.m. window, a worry that many critics of the regulation originally had.

There was little change in the number of crashes reported (and a possible decrease in the number of fatalities).

Other Ways to Stay Safe on the Road

Hours of Service rules are the law and they may help you to be safer on the road, but they aren’t the only way to increase your safety on the road. Here are a few other simple changes you can make based on recommendations and statistics from the GAO report.

Drive During the Day- The study found that drivers driving a nighttime schedule were on average much more fatigued than drivers working during daylight hours. To reduce fatigue, drive during the day if you can. If you must drive at night, here’s a great presentation from the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) about drowsy driving.

Be Aware of Danger Times- The report found that crashes were more likely to occur when the roads were icy rather than dry, foggy rather than clear, and during dawn rather than daylight hours. Although you should be vigilant at all times, difficult road conditions do increase your risk of an accident. Be extra careful if you must drive during these times.

Don’t Speed– The most commonly cited reason for driver-caused crashes in 2012 was speeding. If you’re guilty of driving too fast, slow down.

It looks like the new HOS rules are here to stay. Have you noticed any changes (positive or negative) due to the changes in the HOS rules?