According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), October, November and December are the most dangerous months for vehicle crashes with animals…the majority of which involve deer. This is mating season for deer, and the amorous animals seem oblivious to traffic as they cross roads and highways in search of a romantic liaison. In addition to the drive to reproduce, deer are also on the move to find food and shelter for the upcoming winter. The danger is at its highest during the early morning and early evening hours, the most active time for deer and, coincidentally, the peak time for commuters.
NHTSA estimates that nationwide, more than 1.5 million collisions occur between deer and motor vehicles every year, resulting in 200 human deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and plenty of road kill. Collisions occur on all types of roadways and highways, and in urban as well as rural areas. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates the cost for vehicle damage is more than $1 billion, with an average insurance claim of $3,000. Another important note NHTSA offers is that drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash resulting from making evasive maneuvers than an actual collision with the animal.
Slowing down and staying alert when driving are the best ways to help you avoid deer that seemingly appear out of nowhere, sometimes even during daylight hours. Pay attention to deer crossing signs. They are put there for a reason. And remember that if you see one deer, there are usually more very nearby because deer travel in small herds.
Other ways to help avoid a collision with deer:
- Continually scan the road for deer, and if you see one near the edge of the road, slow down so you’ll be better able to react to its unpredictable behavior;
- Use your high beams when it’s safe to do so, and watch for deer eyes reflecting in your headlights making them easier to spot;
- Remember the exact spot where you saw a deer cross the road. They are creatures of habit and will use the same paths;
- Honking your horn and flashing your headlights if you see a deer in the road can help scare the animal off;
- If you do suddenly encounter a deer in the road, DO NOT SWERVE to try and avoid it. You could find yourself veering into oncoming traffic, landing in a ditch or
hitting a fixed object like a tree or utility pole. These situations will likely cause more deaths and serious injuries than actually hitting the deer; and
- Never try to move an injured animal. It might panic and seriously injure you. If you do strike a deer, call police or other authorities for assistance, move your vehicle off the roadway and stay in your vehicle until help arrives.
The deer population has grown throughout the country in the last 10 years. Because of the mild winter earlier this year, more deer probably survived, leading to more animals on the roads this fall…and more collisions.