Nov 24, 2009

Watch how you steer: don't veer for deer!

They’re out there. In the woods and on the roads as well. While hunters are gearing up to find that big buck, motorists around our plant, our state, and many parts of the nation are trying hard to avoid them.

I know that I have had some harrowing near misses during my 45 minute daily drive to work, and about five years ago, hit a deer and did $4,000 damage to my then Explorer.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration there are about 1.5 million car accidents with deer each year that result in $1 billion in vehicle damage, about 150 human fatalities, and over 10,000 personal injuries. The actual numbers are most likely higher because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's figures for deer accidents rely on inconsistent state reporting. There is no standard reporting of deer accidents in the country yet, and a “reportable deer accident” varies significantly between states.

However, in an insurance claim statistics study, the top ten states for deer accidents were listed. According to this study, Pennsylvania drivers experience more deer collisions than any other state with Michigan following close behind. The number of accidents increases with the deer migrating and mating season which occurs between the months of October and December.

The worst states for deer collisions based on total number of claims filed with one of the countries largest auto insurers are:

1. Pennsylvania
2. Michigan
3. Illinois
4. Ohio
5. Georgia
6. Minnesota
7. Virginia
8. Indiana
9. Texas
10. Wisconsin

Tips to avoid deer accidents:

Be attentive when driving, especially at dusk. Slow down.

Use high-beam headlights when driving in deer territory to increase your vision as well as your time to react to a deer hiding on the roadside who decides to jump in front of your car.

The use of car-mounted “deer whistles” actually has minimal effect on deer and may result in drivers being less aware. You need to continually be on your guard.

If a collision with a deer is unavoidable, it is always best not to swerve to avoid it. Brake and hold the wheel straight. Turning the wheel to avoid the deer may result in a worse accident with another car, or cause the car to spin out of control resulting a in much more serious crash.


  1. We have deer in our area, too, and I have had to slow down many times when I come home from work and find them in the roadway. One night I even had to brake for a couple of deer crossing my driveway.
    Beautiful creatures. Thanks for the good advice.

  2. Thank you for posting this I have had 2 really bad accidents with deers within a 3 years period. The last one cost 4000 worth of damage and a fear every time I past that road. The other day as a matter of fact I almost hit one. Thank God I was only doing 55 mph wish I normally do 80mph. And it is always on a less traffic highway. But even I 95 I see them laying flat. It upsets me a lot I hate to see them death. Specially with those beautify eyes that they have. It is sad but thanks again for the advice.

  3. I didn't think those whistles helped much ...

  4. Ken we have Muntjac deer in the fields next door to us and I am always thrilled when I see one in front of me ~ they are beautiful and I would be devastated if I hit one when in my car ~ so I always make sure I drive carefully when coming home ~ Ally x

  5. Considering all the deer we have just at our place, I feel lucky that I haven't hit one. (knock on wood)

  6. Rule one is Hit The Deer

    Unfortunately its that time of the year. The deer in Pennsylvania are everywhere. I have two friends that had two very different results and one is quite tragic.
    Its instinct, pure and simple. When a deer is suddenly on the road in front of you, you want to swerve around them. Not necessarily to save the deer, but because our instinct is to avoid a collision. These two stories are about a year apart.
    In the first case, my son’s pre-school teacher, who had been a friend of my wife’s for many years, was driving home from work late one night. A friend was following behind her. As her Jeep Cherokee rounded a curve, there was a large buck on the road. She instinctively swerved to avoid the deer, and hit a rather large oak tree head on. Although she was wearing her seatbelt, she was dead on impact. Yes, she was speeding a little, but that one moment’s instinct ended her life, at the age of 42.
    But some people did pay attention to that story. The next year, a mutual friend was driving her Toyota Camry on the interstate one night, doing the speed limit. Several deer darted onto the highway in front of her. She later told me that somehow, that friend’s death from the year before, flashed in a second through her head. Although she did hit her brakes and her horn, she also continued straight ahead, controlling her car. She hit one of the deer head on.
    Now, her car ended up with a lot of damage, and the deer was killed instantly. But she stayed on the road. The Camry fortunately, also has a great crash test rating. She had some bruising from the air bag deploying, and was shaken up. But she lived and insurance took care of the damage.
    It is the hardest thing in the world to fight that instinct to swerve. Everything in you says that you need to dodge. But, as these two stories show, rule on is to hit the deer. The consequences are far easier to deal with.


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