Oh, Deer! Whitetails Unlimited Urges Caution While Driving this Fall
Collisions between cars and white-tailed deer are common in the fall, and drivers need to be alert to the danger, according to Whitetails Unlimited Executive Director Pete Gerl. “Drivers need to be aware that deer are more active in the fall as the breeding season approaches,” Gerl said. “There are hundreds of thousands of accidents with deer nationwide, and the only effective way to prevent them is for drivers to be alert to the danger.”
Car-deer accidents peak during the fall for several reasons. As the weather cools in the fall deer start to move toward their wintering areas. As the fall breeding season approaches both does and bucks become more active. In addition, deer feed even more in the fall to build up reserves for the cold winter months, and much of this feeding activity takes place during the dusk and dawn hours. During all of this activity more deer are crossing more roads as they move across the countryside.
There are a number of things a driver can do to avoid deer collisions this time of year:
- Be more cautious while driving at all times. Deer are normally more active between dusk and dawn and are crossing roads during the night when visibility for drivers is at the lowest.
- Reduce your speed and watch the edges of the road, as well as ditches and tree lines along the highway. At night, drive within the limits of your headlights and use your high beams when you are able to. Headlights will pick up reflections from a deer’s eyes long before you will be able to see the entire deer. Slow down when you see these reflections.
- Deer often travel in groups. If you see one deer, assume there are others around.
- Deer crossing signs along the highway are there for a reason – deer are known to cross the road in that area. Be extra cautious whenever you see a deer crossing sign.
- If a collision with a deer is inevitable, avoid violent swerving to miss the deer – do not cross the centerline into oncoming traffic. Most experts advise hitting the deer instead of swerving sharply into the side of the road and possibly losing control of the vehicle, hitting a roadside object, or rolling the vehicle.
- Always wear seatbelts – driver and passengers.
- If you do hit a deer, call 911 if there are injuries or if your vehicle is disabled. Insurance companies normally require a police report if there is damage that needs to be repaired. Do not approach a deer that is injured but still alive. It will be scared and want to flee, and you can be injured by hooves or antlers. Police officers and game wardens are permitted to destroy injured animals, but it is usually not legal for individuals to kill a deer out of season or without a license.
Seeing a deer in the woods is a wonderful treat, but it’s scary when you see one near the road. Be careful out there.