The weather is getting cooler, leaves are changing colors and it’s officially deer breeding season. Forget the cherubic image of Bambi – when you’re driving (and especially at night), deer can be one of the most dangerous road hazards.
According to this 2015 article by Slate, “white-tailed deer are the deadliest animals in North America. Every year an estimated 1.25 million deer-vehicle crashes result in about 150 human fatalities, more than 10,000 injuries, and insurance payouts approaching $4 billion.”
So, what should you do to avoid deer on the road? We’ve compiled some tips for keeping yourself and your vehicle safe from these unpredictable creatures:
Slow down and give yourself enough time to brake
Headlights illuminate from 200 to 250 feet. Reduce your speed to 30-45 mph at night or in inclement weather conditions.
Pay attention to animal-crossing signs
These signs aren’t just placed randomly. These are places where heavy animal traffic occurs.
Drive during inactive periods
Deer are most active (and more frequently hit) around dusk and dawn. If you can, try not to drive during those times. Also keep in mind that deer are on the move during mating season, which falls between October and January.
Keep your eyes open
Look for reflecting eyes (deer will reflect your headlights), especially around shoulders.
Look for the herd
Deer travel in packs, so if you see one deer, be prepared for many more. Slow down and keep an eye out for others.
Beware of road salt
If you’re driving in a state that uses road salt during the snowy seasons, remember that most wildlife will be drawn to it as food.
Stay in the center
If you’re driving on a road with more than two lanes, the center lane will be the safest option for avoiding collision.
Horns can scare deer enough to keep them out of the road. If you see one, slow down and give a good, long blast of horn.
What To Do If You Encounter Deer
If you see a deer, brake calmly and do not swerve. Lock your brakes and brace yourself for impact.
If you do happen to hit a deer, here’s what you should do, according to Geico:
- Pull to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so.
- Turn on your hazard lights and remain in the vehicle until you are sure it is safe.
- Call emergency services if injuries are involved or the local police for property damage.
- Stay away from the deer. If it is still alive, it could be confused, injured and dangerous if approached. When contacting the authorities, let them know if the deer is in a dangerous spot on the road so that it can be removed.