Avoiding Deer on the Road
Because there's no changing a deer's behavior near roads, these tips are provided to drivers to help reduce collisions:
- First and foremost, always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in car/deer crashes were not wearing their seat belt
- Slow down—especially where deer-crossing signs are posted. So many times reports of collision are from people who were in a hurry to go somewhere. If you spot a deer anywhere near a road, immediately decelerate as safely as possible. Remember, the often travel in groups so there may be others that you don't see. Besides, a standing deer can suddenly panic and dart in any direction. Use your horn to scare the deer away from the road.
- Drive defensively—especially if you see a deer. Expect the deer to do the unexpected—like run right out in front of your car. And often deer travel in pairs or threes, so if you see one cross the road ahead there's likely another about to come out, too.
- Be especially wary during spring and fall. In March and April, roadsides have some of the first greenery of the year available to hungry deer. After harvest, a farmer's cut field can provide a smorgasbord of snacks for a deer herd. And breeding activity in October and November prompts deer to move around more than usual. Contrary to local lore, there are not more deer along roadsides only during deer hunting season.
- Dawn and dusk are the most dangerous times. Low-light hours are when deer are moving most. Nights are especially hazardous because it's hard to see roadside deer until they dash into the headlights. The majority of car-deer incidents happen on two-lane, rural roads between 6:00pm and midnight, especially during the months of October, November and December.
- Watch the side of the road, especially near woods. Whitetails regularly travel along river and stream banks or wooded bottomlands—places where motorists usually see deer-crossing signs. While driving in these areas, expand your field of vision beyond the road to see the road ditches and wood edges where deer might be standing.
- Deer warning gadgets don't work. Several studies have shown that whistles and other devices attached to vehicles fail to scare or warn deer. People want to drive 60 miles per hour with some device to scare deer off roadways so they don't have to slow down. It's wishful thinking.
- Use your lights. Drive with lights on during overcast days and use high beams at night whenever possible. Though headlights from a speeding vehicle tend to confuse whitetails, the reflecting light from their eyes helps drivers to see the animals.
- Don't dodge a deer only to lose control and smack another vehicle. Sometimes hitting a whitetail actually turns out to be your best option. It's not pretty, but it sure beats getting rear-ended, driving into a ditch or getting hit by a gravel truck!
What To Do If You Are Going To Hit A Deer
- Slow down, and grasp the steering wheel firmly, with both hands.
- Brake hard, without locking the wheels and skidding.
- Steer straight and stay in your lane. Do not use extraordinary measures to avoid the deer. This could put you in greater danger by crossing lanes into oncoming traffic or by hitting things like telephone poles.
What To Do If You Hit A Deer
- First, stop the car safely, making sure you an any passengers are not hurt.
- If possible, move the car to the right shoulder and turn on the hazard lights.
- Do not approach the deer. You could be injured or forced into traffic by a thrashing animal.
- Report the crash to the police and your insurance company as soon as possible.
- Do not attempt to kill an injured deer or take it before a police officer issues you a highway killed deer permit. Illegal possession of a deer is a misdemeanor punishable by jail, and/or a fine plus the loss of future hunting privileges.