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

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  1. The Greasy Wheels Guy says

    Ever heard of the expression “Like a deer in the headlights”? I have had well over a hundred encounters with deer and more than half the time, they freeze! I got some advice from a several million mile trucker (brother); If you can safely do so, turn off the headlights and tap your horn with quick random honks! Leave your marker/parking lights on. It looks like the eyes of a predator to them, the headlights can be confused as sunrise, or the moon by a startled deer. There hasn’t been a time that it hasn’t worked for me, and my brother hasn’t hit one since doing this method. (Sadly, 18-wheeler vs. deer, the deer loses. A car vs. deer is another story. “Bambi might look soft and cuddly, but if you hit one, you’ll have a lot of damage or injuries! Wait till you get the bill if you don’t miss the deer, just the cost of airbags will make you wish you read this and took the advice!) Especially effective at highway speeds when you just can’t be reasonably expected to slow down. If you slow to 25 MPH, you’ll more likely be hit by another car! See a deer sign? Be extra alert for a couple miles, not JUST at that place. The signs are posted about 1/8 to 1/2 mile before the known places they cross, watch out for “Jay-walking deer”!!

  2. Edwina says

    I live in an area where deer (and rabbits et al) are common. Drive slowly enough you can ease to a stop. Also remember that deer can be “paralyzed” in their tracks by your headlights. If you turn your lights off (no one else is around and it’s safe to do so) they will continue crossing. And yes, there is always more than one. I have done this several times and it always works. Just be alert.

  3. Richie A. Comia says

    Perhaps you could add #8: Keep your headlight lenses clear for maximum light output. If the lens’ surfaces have become cloudy, see a professional headlight restoration company.