Deer safety: Tips for avoiding an accident on the road
You're driving home from work when you sense movement in the ditch next to the highway; you pump your brakes in time to avoid the two eyes now flashing in the darkness that have moved onto the roadway. You sigh in relief as the deer scampers off into the darkness.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation reports Minnesota averages about 35,000 deer-car collisions a year, and three to 11 fatalities.
So, what can you do to stay safe when Minnesota's deer season gets underway Nov. 3? Read on to learn some of trends and statistics, as well as a few tips for making your drive through deer country as safe as possible.
DEER TRENDS AND STATISTICS
Dawn and dusk are the times you are most likely to encounter deer along the roadside.
Deer-breeding season runs from October through early January, and during this time, they are highly active and on the move. This is when deer-vehicle collisions are at their peak.
Although deer may wander into neighborhoods, they are more frequently found on the outskirts of town and in heavily wooded areas.
As pack animals, deer almost never travel alone. If you see one deer, you can bet there are others nearby.
If you are driving through an area known for high deer populations, slow down and observe the speed limit. The more conservative you are with your speed, the more time you will have to brake if an animal darts into your path.
Always wear a seatbelt. The most severe injuries in deer-vehicle collisions usually result from failure to use a seatbelt.
Watch for the shine of eyes alongside roads and immediately begin to slow down.
Use your high beams whenever the road is free of oncoming traffic. This will increase your visibility and give you more time to react.
Deer can become mesmerized by steady, bright lights, so if you see one frozen on the road, slow down and flash your lights. NHTSA and other experts recommend one long blast of the horn to scare them out of the road as well.
Pay close attention to caution signs indicating deer or other large animals. These signs are specifically placed in high-traffic areas, where deer sightings are frequent.
If you're on a multi-lane road, drive in the center lane to give as much space to grazing deer as possible.
ENCOUNTERING A DEER
Never swerve to avoid a deer in the road. Swerving can confuse the deer on where to run. Swerving also can cause a head-on collision with oncoming vehicles, take you off the roadway into a tree or a ditch, and greatly increase the chances of serious injuries.
Deer are unpredictable creatures, and one that is calmly standing by the side of the road may suddenly leap into the roadway without warning. Slowing down when you spot a deer is the best way to avoid a collision, however, if one does move into your path, maintain control and do your best to brake and give the deer time to get out of your way.
Don't rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer. These have not been proven to work.
If you do collide with a deer or large animal, call emergency services if injuries are involved or local police if damage has been caused to your property or someone else's. Never touch an animal in the roadway.
Knowing what to do when you encounter a large animal on or near the roadway can be a life saver. Keeping calm and driving smart improve your chances of avoiding a collision and staying safe.