5 Ways To Avoid Hitting A Deer With Your Car This Fall
With rutting season underway and hunting season soon to follow, deer herds are on the move. Here's some expert advice on avoiding them with your shiny new car.
Full disclosure, I have hit over 15 deer with various vehicles over the years, including one on my bike, which I'm still having nightmares about, so I've turned it over to the experts for some tips on how to avoid the dreaded deer-car collision.
1. Deer are herd animals. If you see one racing across the road, there's a good chance more will follow. I learned this lesson the hard way one spring driving back from Traverse City on 131 when my front bumper clipped a deer who raced across the road. As I moved away to the left, four more deer made a break for it, and it was all I could do to avoid another strike. If you see a deer run across the road, slow down and be cautious, more may be coming.
2. Brake, but don't swerve to avoid deer. It's tempting to make a quick swerve to avoid striking a deer, but experts say it actually puts you at more risk. The Michigan State Police recommends that you break hard, and come to a controlled stop if you must, but don't swerve.
3. Don't turn your brights on to get deer out of the road. It doesn't work, in fact, it may transfix the deer to lock up and stay in the road, hence the cliche 'deer in the headlights'. Some insurance web sites suggest flashing your lights at deer, but the science isn't conclusive on that one. Honking does little to help either, but many people say those small, plastic deer whistles that attach to your front bumper may be effective, although they didn't work for me.
4. Bucks move more at dawn and dusk. Every hunter knows this, and so should every driver. If it's early light or late light, deer are in motion. The Deer Management web site puts it this way:
Like taxes and death, you can count on two things when talking about mature bucks: they move most at dawn and dusk, and during the rut. Deer are crepuscular. It’s built into their DNA. It doesn’t matter what month of the year you are talking about, pretty much every study out there shows that the time of day bucks are most active is at sunrise and sunset.
5. The more rural and darker the road, the higher your chance of encountering deer. Deer know people are dangerous, so they avoid them for the most part, which means if you're on a dark, rural road, the better your chances of having a deer dart in your path. Studies from Michigan have shown deer-car accidents are four times more likely on a two lane rural road over multi lane rural roads and ten times higher than an urban street. That being said, I once hit a deer with a U-Haul rental in downtown Philadelphia, so you're not exempt from paying attention.
Most experts, from insurance companies to law enforcement agree on one thing: during rutting season in the fall, drive slower and more cautiously.