Deer-Vehicle Collisions-Falls Biggest Safety Threat

Fall finally returned last week. With its arrival comes not only a drop in temperature but pumpkin flavored everything, Friday night high school football, fall foliage and

deerchili. However, there is one change that fall brings with it that many of us may not have thought about quite yet. During the fall is when the largest number of DVCs, aka deer-vehicle collisions occurs. In order to protect both wildlife and ourselves we must first recognize the seriousness of this hazard in which we face.

Deer-vehicle collisions are more serious than most people realize. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur every year in the United States, causing over 3.6 billion dollars’ worth of damage. However, this pales in comparison to the estimated 200 fatalities and tens of thousands of injuries that also occur during these collisions. Many may also be surprised to learn that State Farm Auto Insurance ranked Virginia in the top 10 highest risk States in the country. Now that we understand the seriousness of deer-vehicle collisions let’s see if we can expand our understanding of the hazard and controls we must put in place to ensure our safety.

In order to keep ourselves safe we must recognize the hazard. This requires everyone to reduce their distractions while driving. Including putting down the cell phone, not texting while driving, limiting our changing of radio stations and even not eating behind the wheel. Cutting down on our distractions will allow us to react quicker to a possible deer collision. Along with cutting down on distractions we must also ensure we are properly rested prior to driving and that we don’t consume alcohol, medicine or drugs that can slow down our reaction time.

Now when it comes to deer activity levels they are normally more active at dawn and dusk which just happens to be when our vision is the most compromised. Therefore, in order to counter this we must ensure we are paying extra attention to not only what is in front of us but what is off to our sides. Luckily, DOT and VDOT have made great strides in increasing the number of deer crossing signs across the state that warn drivers where there is either a high deer population or a history of deer-vehicle collisions.

So now that we are better able to understand the hazard we will discuss how we can avoid collisions with deer. Although DOT and VDOT have increased the number of deer crossing signs it is important to remember that deer are pack animals and tend to utilize the same trails throughout the year. What this means to us is that if a deer crosses in front of your vehicle you should slow down and be on the lookout for other deer. It also means we should make a mental note of where we see deer on our normal driving routes and start paying closer attention to them.

Another way to avoid collisions with deer is to modify our driving routes. Deer are more prone to cross rural roads than they are an interstate or divided highway. For some of us the back rural roads may be a shorter route to our destination, but it also comes with an increased risk of encountering deer and other wildlife.

Understanding the hazard and having the ability to recognize the hazard quicker are a great start to ensuring our safety. Unfortunately there are incidents where we may not be able to modify our driving route, we are not allowing ourselves to be distracted and before we know it a deer has run out in front of us. How we handle this situation can literally be a matter of life and dead.

When a deer runs out in front of our vehicle we must remain calm. We will want to avoid the urge to swerve our vehicle around the deer. It is also important that we don’t stare at the deer, because we tend to drive towards what we are looking at. The next thing we will want to do is heavily apply the brakes. Hopefully the sudden declaration will allow us to avoid a collision with the deer. However, if does not many experts and even agree that right before colliding with the deer you let off your brakes. By doing so you will allow your front end to rise and possibly prevent the deer from hitting your windshield.

After a collision with a deer it is just as important to stay calm. You will want to put on your emergency flashers and pull as far off the road way as possible to avoid a secondary accident with another vehicle. If your vehicle is not drivable you will want to get out of the vehicle and off to the shoulder. Once you are in a safe location off the road now you can do ahead and call your local emergency number for most areas that will be 911, where you can report the accident. While waiting for help to arrive do not wander back out in the road or check on the deer. Injured deer can and have caused serious injury to both motorist and hunters alike. Give the animal some room and let law enforcement handle the situation.

Hopefully the information in this article and the many others that will be published in the upcoming weeks will help avoid and reduce the number of deer-vehicles collisions this year. To quote an old safety slogan, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. This of course is why we constantly conduct safety training and publish safety topics throughout the year.