During the autumn, deer are more active than ever all across the country. As temperatures cool, these frisky ungulates–that’s a mammal with hooves, in case it ever comes up in a trivia question–enter their mating season. Unfortunately, it’s also the season that you’ll see more deer on the roads.
If you’ve ever hit a deer with your vehicle, then you know what a traumatic experience it is. Not only is the deer likely to be seriously injured, if not killed, but collisions with these animals cause an average of 200 motorist fatalities every year.
While you can’t prevent deer from running into the road, these safety tips can help you avoid a collision.
Dawn and Dusk
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. That’s also the time when our eyesight is the worst, so take extra precautions if you need to drive at sunset or sunrise. Use your lights, even if you don’t think you need them, and go more slowly than you would ordinarily.
You should always wear your seatbelt, of course. It’s also smart to drive defensively. Even if you spot a deer and avoid it, another driver might not have the same eagle eyes and good reflexes.
Deer live in herds–and they cross the street in herds, too. Males tend to stay in groups of 3-5 animals, with one older, dominant buck leading a few adolescents. Females and their young form much larger groups. Some of these herds may number a hundred or more animals!
While you’re not likely to see a hundred deer sprinting across the highway, remember that if you see one, there may be more behind it.
Use Your Horn and Brakes
You know the phrase “like a deer in the headlights”? Deer have an unfortunate tendency to stare into your oncoming lights. Flashing your high beams is not as effective as hitting the horn instead. The loud noise may startle the animal off of the roadway.
Your first instinct may be to swerve out of the way. However, that’s likely to cause a crash with another motorist or even roll your vehicle instead. Hit the brakes, stay in your lane, and stay calm. At that point, hopefully, you’ll stop before you hit the deer. If not…
Aftermath of a Collision
Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to avoid hitting a deer. If possible, move your vehicle to the side of the road and activate your hazard lights. If your car is damaged or anyone in it sustained an injury, call 911. You should also give your insurance company a call.
The one thing you should not do is approach the animal. When wounded, the deer may lash out or behave unpredictably. Does weigh an average of 100 lbs, and bucks can top 150 lbs. An animal that size can do damage with hooves and antlers. Stay back, keep calm, and wait for help to arrive.