Vehicle collisions between deer and passenger vehicles are all-too-common in the United States. Annually, it is estimated that there are between one million and two million collisions between vehicles and large wildlife of all kinds, and deer represent close to 90% of the animals involved. While these accidents rarely cause human injury, fatalities do sometimes occur, and accidents often cause significant damage to vehicles in terms of cost. In fact, the average repair bill is close to $2,000 after a vehicle-deer collision. Since it is difficult to control animal behavior, especially in many of the rural areas of the nation where such collisions are common, it is up to drivers to prevent these costly accidents. Below are some ways you can avoid being involved in collisions with deer, or lessen the impact of a collision, and protect both your wallet and personal safety:
Know when a collision is most likely to occur
Though a vehicle–deer collision can occur at any time, the single most likely time to be involved in an accident is at dawn or dusk during the fall months. There are also a significant number of incidents during the spring months. The hormonal pressures placed upon bucks (male deer) during the mating season, as well the human-induced pressure from hunting, cause deer to wander and migrate during these times of year. That means you need to be extra alert for the presence of deer during these seasons, and be sure to scan across the horizon while driving.
Be alert in high-density deer zones
Deer are not evenly distributed across the countryside; instead, they have specific habitats they prefer, and you should be aware when entering these areas. Deer are drawn to edge areas, which are parcels of land where dense vegetation growth meets fields, meadows or roadsides. In addition, deer can often be found near streams and other bodies of water.
In many cases, roads are marked with "deer crossing" signs; be sure to heed these warnings, as they are intentionally placed by wildlife experts who understand animal behavior. Enter a defensive driving mode at this point, slow down and increase your alertness level. Watch both sides of the road, not just the passenger side, as a racing deer may cross the opposing lane of traffic and dart into your path.
What to do when you spot a deer
If you spot a deer at the roadside while driving, it is wise to take action at that moment before being forced into a panic reaction. Below are a few steps to take:
Let your foot off the accelerator or turn off your cruise control - There is no need to apply the brakes immediately, but allow your car to enter a gradually slowing coast when you spot a deer. This will better prepare you in case you do need to hit the brakes.
Look for additional deer - Since deer are herd animals, the presence of one deer indicates there is likely one or more additional deer in close proximity. That means you should avoid tunnel vision and focusing on one animal when another deer could be lurking or racing toward the road.
Make short honks with the horn - While there is no guarantee that you can frighten a deer away, a few short honks from your car horn may cause the deer to stand alert and still or run away from the road. Be careful not to engage in excessive honking in areas with lots of other vehicles, or you may confuse drivers as to your intentions.
What to do when a collision appears inevitable
Despite your best efforts, a collision with a deer may seem unavoidable. During those moments, however, you still may be able to lessen the amount of damage caused, and most importantly, prevent a secondary, more serious, accident. Here are some things you can do:
Brake firmly - When applying your brakes, use strong pressure on the pedal and allow the brakes to perform the work for you, especially if you have anti-lock brakes. Don't pump the pedal, since this will only increase your stopping distance.
Keep your eyes toward the safe area - Drivers have a tendency to steer toward where they are looking, so don't focus on the deer; instead, look at your best path of avoiding contact with the deer.
Don't swerve - Sudden swerving in response to a deer could cause a far worse accident by taking you into oncoming traffic, off the road down an embankment, or into another hazard zone. Keep both hands on the wheel and make steering adjustments smooth, controlled and deliberate.
Stay inside your vehicle - If you do strike a deer, resist the urge to leave your vehicle to check on its welfare or inspect the damage. Injured wild animals can seriously hurt you, and you may also be vulnerable to others in the herd, such as bucks, who perceive you as a threat. Stay inside the safety of your vehicle and call for emergency assistance.
For more tips on dealing with the aftermath of a deer collision, especially if your car has been damaged, contact a company like Family Insurance Centers.