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Deer in the Fall

- October 31, 2017 by Dan Heinen, ASP (View all posts by Dan)

As we enter the fall season we get to enjoy the experience of empty farm fields, changes of the colors of leaves on trees. The weather cools off, leaves begin to change, crops are coming out, and animals are more energetic. Yes, fall is deer mating season and as it turns cooler they become much more lively as their hormones become more active.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, resulting in 200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries and over $3.6 billion in vehicle damage. Being prepared can help prevent you from adding to these statistics.
There are several things you can do to help prevent being on of these statistics. When driving this fall, you should:

    • Watch for other deer. Deer rarely travel alone. If a deer crosses in front of you, or you see one alone the side of the road, chances are there are others either already across or wanting to cross.
    • Dusk and Dawn. These are the times deer are more active. As I noted in an earlier blog these are also the times your vision may be hindered by the sun and when it is most compromised. To add to that, they will also be more active at night. With the shorter periods of daylight your chance of encountering one increase fall through winter when you’re more likely to travel after the sun sets.
    • Wear your seat belt. It won’t help you prevent an accident but can significantly help improve your odds of reduced injury should a collision occur.
    • Watch for road signs. Most places of high deer traffic areas are posted with a yellow diamond-shaped sign. Slow down and watch the sides of the roads for deer. Their eyes reflect your headlights. If no oncoming traffic is present, you may want to use your high beams as this will help improve the chances of your seeing them in time to slow down or stop.
    • Don’t swerve. Brake firmly and calmly, and stay in your lane. Most (if not all) newer vehicles come with anti-lock brakes. This will help allow you to stay in your lane as you slow down or attempt to come to a stop. Swerving may either put you in in the path of an oncoming vehicle, or the deer may panic and change direction and you go into its path, or depending on the weather conditions you may lose control of your vehicle completely, resulting in a more serious situation.
    • Honk! Depending on who you speak to, some experts say that one long blast of the horn may scare deer out of the road. “Deer whistles” are available but to my knowledge, haven’t proven to be a safe deterrent.

If the above plan fails (and remember, it happens 1.6 million times a year), you should take the following steps in the deer collision aftermath:

      • Pull off to the side of the road if you are able to and it is safe to do so.
      • Turn on your hazard lights and remain in the vehicle until you are sure it is safe.
      • Call 911 to inform local authorities of the situation.
      • Stay away from the deer. It may not be as hurt as you think it is. An injured deer can hurt you with its hooves and/or antlers. Let the authorities make sure the deer is okay.
      • Check your car for damage. Sounds silly, but it may be damaged more (or less) than you think. Look for leaking fluids, check your lights, odd sounds when (or if) you start it back up. Check the hood latch to make sure it is secure. It would be cheaper to get a tow then have your engine blow up or hood fly up a few miles down the road.

Slow down, watch your surroundings and safe driving!


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