All About Driving in Deer Season
Nature sometimes gets the best of us, and between the months of September and February, deer become more than a little distracted by the opposite sex. Females go into heat, and males will sometimes stop at nothing to make time with them. In the heat of passion, ordinarily cautious bucks forget about the dangers of roadways. This is why most vehicle-deer collisions occur during the mating season; like human teenagers, amorous deer can’t always be trusted around cars. But there are steps you can take to make your rural drives safer. In this post, we’ll provide advice on avoiding deer and what to do if you encounter one on the road.
More vehicle-deer collisions than everThe United States deer population is rising, due largely to effective game management. That’s good for deer, but it makes driving more treacherous during mating season. Hundreds of people are killed in these accidents each year, with more than a million total deer collisions occurring on American roads every year. In short, if you drive anywhere that deer are present (like most of Kansas), you need to be prepared.
Steps to avoid a deer collision
- Watch for the deer crossing signs. Wildlife personnel place these along roadways in areas known to have high densities of deer population.
- Stay vigilant at all hours. Yes, deer are largely nocturnal, even during mating season, but there are plenty of lonely bucks willing to go without sleep and search for love at all hours of the day.
- Be even more vigilant at night, dusk, and dawn, partially because it’s just, plain harder to see anything, including deer. Slow down at night, so you have more reaction time. Watch the road, but also watch the sides of the road; small flashes of light may be a deer’s eyes reflecting your headlights.
- If you see one deer, assume that more are around. Females and fawns move in groups, with young bucks often trailing close behind, looking for romance.
- Honk, when in doubt. If the brush and trees along the sides of the road are thick, making it difficult to see what animals might be lurking, honk the horn occasionally. If you see a deer, definitely honk the horn; even the randiest buck will usually run from this sound.
- Don’t trust deer whistles to save you. If you’ve considered buying car-mounted ultrasonic deer whistles, put your money away. A study by the University of Georgia determined that they are not effective deterrents.
Other safety considerationsWhat if you don’t see the deer until the last second? Experts agree that you should hit the deer because most fatalities occur when drivers swerve to miss the deer and run into something worse, like guardrails, embankments or other vehicles. The safest course of action is to apply the brakes, keep a tight grip on the steering wheel, and do your best to stop on the road or shoulder. Use your seat belt. Yes, they chafe and bind, especially on long road trips, but seat belts save 15,000 lives per year because they work.
What if you hit a deer?Hitting a deer is frightening at many levels. It’s part highway drama and part horror movie, and it can really shake you up. But it’s important to breathe and keep a clear head because, even if the car is already wrecked, you’re not out of the woods yet. Follow these largely common-sense steps to make sure you stay safe after hitting a deer:
- Turn on your hazard lights.
- Pull the vehicle off the road if it’s drivable. Check for traffic before getting out. If it’s not drivable, check for traffic, exit the vehicle, and get off the road.
- Check for injuries, and perform what first aid you can until help arrives.
- Call 911 if anyone is injured, any property is damaged, or the deer carcass needs to be removed from the road.
- Call your insurance company.
- If the vehicle is not drivable, make arrangements to have it moved. If you have broken headlights, parts hanging loose, tire damage, or leaking fluids, you’ll probably need a tow truck.
- Thank your lucky stars you’re alive.