October through January is deer breeding season which means more deer – driver encounters on the road. Unfortunately, many times these encounters lead to collisions. The animal usually comes out second-best in this type of close encounter, but the toll on vehicles and their occupants can also be substantial. According to a State Farm statistic, in 2013, 191 people died as a result of collisions with animals. Vehicle damage can exceed $4,000 and the parts most prone to damage are the front bumper, grille, headlamps, hood and fender areas; sometimes the windshield is broken and air bags deploy.
No foolproof way has been found to keep deer off the roads and away from vehicles. Deer whistles have their advocates; some motorists insist the devices have helped them avoid collisions. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says there’s no scientific evidence to support claims they prevent deer from approaching cars or reduce crash risk. Perhaps a more promising approach is roadside reflectors, designed to reflect light from vehicle headlamps and cause deer to “freeze” rather than cross the road. Studies and field tests suggest they do reduce crash frequency to some extent.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid an unplanned meeting with a deer:
- Be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs. Look well down the road and far off to each side. At night, use your high-beam lights if possible to illuminate the road’s edges. Be especially watchful in areas near woods and water. If you see one deer, there may be several others nearby.
- Be particularly alert at dusk and dawn, when these animals venture out to feed.
- If you see a deer on or near the roadway and think you have time to avoid hitting it, reduce your speed, tap your brakes to warn other drivers, and sound your horn. Deer tend to fixate on headlights, so flashing them may cause the animal to move. If there’s no vehicle close behind you, brake hard.
- If a collision seems inevitable, don’t swerve to avoid the deer; your risk of injury may be greater if you do. Hit it, but control the vehicle. Report the accident to the police.
Always obey the speed limit and wear safety belts.