7 Ways To Avoid Hitting A Deer

Deer crossing signDeer mating season can be a dangerous time for drivers, deer and car hoods. 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.

When driving this fall, you should:

  1. Watch for the rest of the gang. Deer are pack animals, and rarely travel alone. If a deer crosses in front of you, chances are there are more nearby. Slow down and keep an eye out for more deer darting across the road.
  2. Timing is everything. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn: periods when your vision is most compromised. To add to their terrible timing, deer are on the move during mating season (between October and January) when you’re more likely to travel after the sun sets. Slow down and stay alert, especially after dark.
  3. Wear your seat belt. It may not prevent a collision, but if the inevitable happens a seat belt can reduce injuries. This is especially true if you lose control and collide with something bigger, and more stationary than a deer.
  4. Take a moment to reflect. First, look for the road signs. The yellow diamonds with the deer on it are placed in high-traffic areas for deer. You may also spot a deer because their eyes will brightly reflect a car’s headlights, making them easier to spot.
  5. Stay Center. On a multi-lane road, the center lane is your safest bet for avoiding a deer collision, as long as your local traffic laws permit it. This gives deer plenty of space; and in case your vehicle does startle them, it gives you more time to react if one darts onto the road.
  6. Stay the course. If you see a deer, brake firmly and calmly, and stay in your lane. Swerving could make you lose control of your vehicle and turn a bad situation much worse. Not to mention, deer are unpredictable, and you could swerve directly into their changed path.
  7. Honk! Some experts recommend that one long blast of the horn will scare deer out of the road. Do not rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer—studies have shown them to be largely ineffective at minimizing accidents.

We hope you’ll never need this section.

If the above plan fails (and it happens to the best drivers), you should take the following steps in the deer collision aftermath.

  1. Pull to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so.
  2. Turn on your hazard lights and remain in the vehicle until you are sure it is safe.
  3. Call emergency services if injuries are involved or the local police for property damage.
  4. Stay away from the deer. If it is still alive, it could be confused, injured and dangerous if approached. When contacting the authorities, let them know if the deer is in a dangerous spot on the road so that it can be removed.
  5. Contact GEICO as quickly as possible to report any damage to your vehicle.

By Nathan Erb

Need to report an accident? Click here.

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  1. Kevin Grant says

    I had to travel a road that was always covered with dear and the horn was the best way to avoid them. I went slow and hit the horn like the panic button had been pressed. Works for other animals too.

  2. Ann says

    I think plain old common sense should prevail. Driving in areas that are wooded or have fields or meadows requires extra caution. Simply drive slower and be on the lookout for the eye reflections. If one does pass by, slow down to a crawl and watch for more to follow. Pay attention to your driving, not the radio, phone or the scenery!! I’ve been driving for 49 years and have hit only one deer…..that was enough to teach me a lesson in being proactive.

  3. Thomas H. says

    I’ve been an 8-to-5 commuter since I graduated from high school, literally. I went many years without coming close to hitting a deer–then it happened to me twice in less than three years, with the same car. Luckily they were just nuisance collisions, no injuries to me but my car needed body repair both times. The only foolproof solution would be don’t drive, but for most of us that’s not an option. I know my commute route by heart and wherever I see deer from time to time, dead or alive, I always SLOW DOWN, especially from November through February. If those who follow me get impatient and want to pass me, fine. Let them risk messing up their car.

  4. Esteban Larson says

    OK, so I was going the legal limit, 70 mph on I-10 some 15 miles west of the CA/AZ border, and hit a deer (well the deer ran into me, actually). Totaled my Subaru Impreza, the airbags popped, and the car came to a stop, but, my wife and I were OK. What got me is that the freeway was fenced on both sides, and the deer still got into the right of way. I didn’t see it until it hit me, and my wife never saw it. The CHP officer said he believed what I said because of all the deer fur in the main crash area of the car, but, after an extensive search, he never found the deer.

  5. Adrienne says

    I live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This is an ordinary occurrence here unfortunately, because we are surrounded by woods. They are even in town on the highway now, and in our back yards. They are pretty tame around here, they are used to cars and people. You will actually see the things look for cars before crossing the street in town lol, they still cross most the time but you see it. I was told if there is a deer in the road and you think you might not be bee able to stop in time, do not steer away from it, actually do the opposite. Drive towards it. Most likely its going to see you and run, which way no one knows, what happens then well you just swerved right into its path again. If you aim for it and slow down as much as you can, when it runs to either side, chances you going to hit it are reduced, usually they dont just sit there when they see you, they run. So if you aim for it, you should miss when it runs away.

  6. George L. says

    The most important step in avoiding deer-vehicle accidents is to Slow Down. I’m so glad that you have stated that in your steps. I drive night shift in areas with deer. Most of the public is simply driving too fast, and being inattentive–not thinking about their surroundings. I have done these patrols for over 10 years, without deer accidents. Thanks for this good information.

  7. Serge Duval says

    It’s pretty crazy that 1.6 million of these accidents happen every year. I was involved in one at a young age. The car was totaled and we ended up getting rid of it. Larger vehicles are at a higher risk because they are less able to stop quickly. When I consider the kind of cross country driving that RV owners and people pulling camping trailers do, it makes me think that they are probably at an even higher risk. I’ll have to try honking next time I see a deer. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Scott F says

    I have owned 3 Toyota Prius vehicles and I’ve hit a deer with each one… I’m starting to wonder if it is because they run so quietly… Went to Walmart yesterday and purchased the “deer whistles”… Even though they may not be 100% effective, it’s worth a shot at this point… I’m out $750 in deductibles, not to mention devalued vehicles… My latest one is in the shop as I “speak”… I’m so tired of going through this… I’ve hit them in fall, winter, & spring, at dawn & dusk…

  9. R D Johnson says

    At dusk or just after dark, watch the high weeds ahead on the side of the road. Your headlights will reflect in the yes of a deer standing along the roadside. I have avoided hits by doing this. However, if they come out of the woods at high speed you won’t see their eyes. The incident of deer crossings is multiplied during the mating season. And the bucks will run out following the does. So, seeing the first deer should warn you that others will likely follow.

  10. Will says

    If I am travelling in a deer area near dusk or dawn, I prefer to follow behind a much bigger vehicle, if possible. Better that a truck plow through the deer than a small car.

  11. Ron Jamini says

    CORRECTION

    WHen driving you should not listen to theradion, because it could interfere with your ability to concentrate while driving.

  12. Rik says

    I have heard that it is best not to brake just prior to impact because the front of the car dips lowering the hood and throwing the deer through the windshield. Is there any truth to that theory?

    • Donna says

      I hit a buck going 45 without warning. I never saw it’s head just it’s shoulder. I didn’t have time to brake and it came up onto my hood and cracked my windsheild on the passenger side (buck was coming from the drivers side). I was driving a Nissan Altima. This was December 20, 2014. I am still shaken up driving in the early morning.

    • Gregory Kruse says

      No, there isn’t any truth to that theory. If you think you have time to consider whether or not to firmly and immediately apply the brakes, you have never hit a deer.

  13. Lisa says

    I have another suggestion about deer and road travel especially at night. I have tested this method and It works! With windows open a little, play loud music with a heavy bass until you are out of the “danger area” where deer are most likely to be. I hate loud music but this has been a life-saver for me on several occasions. In cold weather having the windows down is not so good, but it’s better than hitting a deer. The deer stop and look in the direction of the strange sound and dart off in the other direction. I guess they don’t like loud music either. (smile) Just thought this tip may help someone.