If deer were motorists, we’d have to revoke their license. These friendly woodland creatures are responsible for hundreds of deaths and billions of dollars’ worth in automotive repair work each year. If you’re thinking it’s not their fault, you’re right — but one look at those stats is enough to drive home how serious hitting a deer can be.
If you’re a city dweller who rarely ventures out, odds are you’re not typically concerned about hitting deer. However, if you live in a rural area and regularly commute, you’re in prime territory for deer collisions. What can you do to avoid a fat repair bill and the guilt of killing or maiming a furry friend? Here are a few tips.
Understand deer behavior
Deer aren’t particularly well informed when it comes to avoiding rush hour, which means you’ve got to be an expert on deer traffic patterns and know when to exercise caution.
West Virginia, Montana and Pennsylvania are the states where drivers are most likely to have an insurance claim from hitting a deer, with 1 in 41 drivers making a claim last year in West Virginia. Worried about deer? Why not treat yourself and move to the coast?
Deer are more mobile during the early morning and dusk hours of the day, and they are most active during the late fall and early winter. May-June is another period of high activity, as adolescent 1-year old deer relocate to new habitats.
Know the giveaways
There are certain locations deer like to frequent. For example, if your drive home from work takes you through a rural area that’s near a lake, river or stream, it’s very possible deer could be crossing the road to get to it. Be extra cautious and drive slower in these areas.
The term “deer in the headlights” was coined for a good reason. The glowing eyes of a deer are by far the easiest way to recognize a doe or buck in your path. If you find yourself squinting into the darkness at night, it might be because of your headlights. LED or HID headlights have a range approximately twice as long as typical halogen headlights, buying you valuable reaction time.
Use common sense
Remember to always wear your seat belt, and take advantage of your high beams whenever you can, since they will help you spot deer at greater distances. If you’re driving a particularly small vehicle, you might benefit from changing to a car with ground clearance and better visibility. A larger vehicle will also handle accidents better if it should come to that.
Be extremely cautious if you notice a fresh kill on the side of the road. It is definitely unpleasant, but it’s also usually a telltale that there are more deer in the area, so take it easy and be particularly alert.
Be careful driving narrow backroads. Nearly 90 percent of deer strikes take place on two-lane roads, and the odds are similar that when one does happen, the weather will be clear and dry. Deer like the same road conditions as you do — except with more deer and no cars.
Deer strikes are serious
In 2015-16, there were more than 200 fatalities as the result of deer strikes, and the average car repair bill came in at around $4,000. Sometimes deer jump out and there isn’t time to avoid them. Hitting an animal is sad and scary, but it’s preferable to veering into oncoming traffic or a tree when you don’t know what’s ahead.
This is why you’ve got to be well-informed about where deer in your area frequent, how you can recognize their territory, and what to do if you hit a deer. It’s better to get where you’re going a little slower than not get there at all because you’ve gotten into a serious accident.