The most dangerous animal in the U.S. is not the sharp-clawed bear or the sharp-toothed shark. Surprisingly, it may be the kind, furry animal we grew up calling “Bambi.” And the most dangerous time of year is now!
Between October and December, the annual deer breeding season (known as the rut) happens. During this time, deer can be very active and unpredictable, and many find their way on to our roadways. On average, more collisions between vehicles and deer occur in November than in any other month. “Oh deer,” is right!
Although we can’t keep deer off of the roads, here are seven steps we can take to reduce the chance of having an accident if a deer crosses our path while driving.
1. Wear your seatbelt or motorcycle helmet! The size of an adult male deer can be 200-plus pounds, and a collision with one can pack a powerful punch. Safety belts and motorcycle helmets can help prevent injuries and deaths!
2. Be vigilant and alert. Although deer can be found almost anywhere at any time, it is important to be extra cautious when driving through heavily wooded areas at dusk and dawn. Look for the reflection of their eyes in your headlights on the side of the road.
3. Use high beams when possible. Using high beams can help better illuminate deer and also make it easier to see the reflection in their eyes. Be cautious with high beams, however. If a deer does cross your path it may freeze in your headlights. Be careful, but turn off the brights quickly and beep your horn to help scare the deer away.
4. Watch for deer crossing signs. When you see a deer crossing sign, pay even more attention to your surroundings. These signs are placed at well-known deer crossing paths, so slow down.
5. Drive in the center lane when possible. If you are traveling down a multi-lane road, try to stay in the center lane when possible. This will give you just a little more reaction time if a deer does dart onto the road in front of you. Stay as close to the centerline as you can safely when on a one or two-lane road.
6. Do not swerve. If a deer does come at you from the side of the road, hit the brakes but avoid swerving. Deer will typically move, so if you swerve, you may put yourself back into the path of the deer. Also, sharp turns can increase the likelihood of losing control of the vehicle and causing an accident with another vehicle, tree, etc.
7. Watch for relatives. Deer are herd animals. If you see one, rest assured there are more nearby. If a deer does jump in front of you, be aware of more deer possibly crossing your path. This is another reason swerving is a bad idea. Swerving to avoid one deer may put you in the path of another.
If you do hit a deer:
- Pullover and call local law enforcement.
- Ask for medical assistance if you or your passengers are injured.
- Stay away from the animal! It could still be alive and panic.
- Take advantage of your roadside assistance program offered by your auto insurance, if available. Check out this video to see how it can help in this type of situation!
Deer are one of the most dangerous animals due to their contributions to auto accidents. Taking simple precautions can be the difference between having an accident with a deer and almost having an accident with a deer. There are products out there, such as deer whistles, which attach to your car and emit a high-pitched whistle that notifies deer of your oncoming vehicle. There are conflicting reports as to their effectiveness, so be sure to take all necessary precautions when driving.
As always, contact your independent insurance agent to make sure you have adequate coverage on your vehicle should you have a run-in with a deer!
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