When a deer is in the path of your vehicle, your first instinct is to get out of the way. But swerving to avoid wildlife often results in a more serious crash.
Most deer crash injuries and deaths result when drivers attempt to avoid the animal. If a collision with a deer seems probable, then hit it while maintaining full control of your vehicle and staying in your lane. Swerving could cause you to lose control of your vehicle -- into opposing traffic lanes or off the road.
Hunting season dates vary across the country, but it is certain with the start of fall that deer-crash season has begun.
The middle of October through the end of November is the time of the year wildlife officials call the "rut" -- the deer mating season. There is a lot more movement of deer during the rut than at any other time of the year. Add to that hunting activities and harvesting of fields, and the probability of deer-vehicle accidents significantly increases.
Use the following tips and information to prevent deer-vehicle accidents in your AEP or personal vehicle:
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- Drive with extreme caution, at or below the posted speed limit.
- Use your human performance improvement and hazard recognition tools to identify issues and react accordingly.
- Leave home a few minutes early and use that extra time to slow down and watch for animals.
- Eliminate distractions in the vehicle to ensure your focus is only on one task, driving. Talking on a cell phone is an example of such distractions. The National Safety Council reports that inattention blindness and tunnel vision can occur when you are performing multiple tasks while driving and impair your ability to react quickly.
- Carefully scan the road and shoulders of the road ahead of you. Looking ahead can provide the time needed to react safely.
- Two-lane roads that divide agricultural land from forested areas are especially high risk for animals in roadways.
- Deer are creatures of habit and use the same pathways to food, water, and shelter repeatedly. Pay attention to deer crossing signs; they are indications of this.
- Highest-risk periods are the hours around dusk and dawn.
- Deer often move in groups. If you see one deer on or near a roadway, expect that others may follow.
- After dark, use high beams when there is no opposing traffic. The high beams will illuminate the eyes of a deer on or near a roadway and provide greater motorist reaction time.
- Report any deer-vehicle collisions to local law enforcement agency or state wildlife officials within 24 hours; immediately if the animal is blocking the roadway and poses a danger to other motorists.
- If your vehicle strikes a deer and the animal is injured, do not attempt to move the animal, as the animal could hurt you or itself. Contact law enforcement.