Oh Deer! How to Avoid Antlers in Your Windshield

I was driving home tonight, and I zoned out. It was a long stretch of road, with few cars on it, and the sky was dark. It would be scary if I saw deer ahead and then was able to react. What can be even more scary is when you don’t even notice the deer until they are right next to your car, having just passed in front of them and the deer staring at you from the side of the road. All this happened before I even knew it. It just goes to show how quick – and sometimes invisible – deer can be.

I’m not alone in my encounter with deer. Though I escaped an accident tonight, it’s estimated that about 1.5 million drivers in the U.S. annually aren’t as lucky and collide with deer (Inside Line). Luckily, only about 300 people die and 15,000 people are injured as a result of either a collision with a deer or an accident caused by attempting to avoid a deer collision (Inside Line). Many accidents are caused by the swerving that drivers do in an attempt to avoid hitting a deer. However, many experts don’t advise swerving, for this reason. Swerving can lead to the driver hitting another car or driving off the side of the road. In a quick moment of fear, what feels like a small turn of the wheel might not be so little.

Drivers are most likely to come into contact with deer later in the night in the fall/early winter months. Deer are most active from about 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and between October to December. Mating season (October-November) is an especially dangerous month for drivers. Deer often travel in pairs or packs in a single file and will often be “stunned’ by the headlights of cars, remaining motionless in the light.

Your likelihood of hitting a deer increases if you live in certain states, as well. Drivers in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania file the most claims for deer accidents, according to Geico. West Virginia drivers have a rate that is almost 4 times the national average, alone! Geico also reports that animal-vehicle crash deaths are the highest (and rising) in Texas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

Since you can’t prevent deer from crossing, the best thing to do is to be prepared and remind yourself of safety tips regularly. Always pay attention to the road and scan the road from left to right constantly. Avoid looking down to check your phone or fidget with the radio. Use your bright lights, turning off momentarily if you come near other drivers, as a courtesy.

One thing that you shouldn’t worry about doing anymore is using hood whistles. According to Geico, deer whistles have never been proven to work. If they make you feel better, keep them on, but don’t waste money on buying new whistles.

In addition, while some web sites will advise you to brake hard, Geico does not advise this. You should take your foot off the brake because braking hard will increase your chances of the deer coming through your windshield, since braking causes the car’s nose to dip. Also, do not swerve, as mentioned above.

Keep an eye out for deer signage, but don’t rely on them. Not all areas are marked with these signs. It would be best not to assume that a deer won’t be in a certain area. Always be alert. And I hope you don’t have to be reminded to wear your seat belt at all times – that should be a given!

What are your experiences with deer? Feel free to offer your tips, as well!

Surviving the Deer Menace by Mac Demere, Inside Line
Geico’s Deer Safety Quiz, Geico
Deer Safety: Tips for Avoiding a Collision, by Dawn McCaslin, Geico
Safety Tips List, North Carolina Department of Transportation

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