Driving Safely: What to do When Deer Cross the Road


There are more than 1.5 million collisions involving vehicles and dear each year.  They end up costing motorists more than 3.5 billion dollars in damage and medical expenses, and a couple hundred people lose their lives annually as a result.  Unfortunately, there’s not a lot that we can do to prevent collisions, particularly at night, on dark roads, when deer are almost impossible to see until their silhouette gets painted by our headlights.  However, there are a couple of tricks that may help, and even if you still end up striking a deer, they can reduce the severity of the impact.


Drive Slower

Deer can run fast, jump far, and seemingly pop out of nowhere as they dash across roadways.  During the day, we may get a second or two of advanced warning if we can see them emerging from the treeline, and this can be more than enough time to stop or take some kind of safe evasive action.  However, this is not usually the case at night.  Consequently, one of the best things that we can all do is to take our foot off the gas when we’re driving in areas that have deer.  It’s that simple.


Slowing down gives us more time to react if we suddenly see a deer pop in front of our vehicles.  It also reduces stopping distance, which can prevent collisions from occurring in the first place.  While we may need more time to get to our respective destinations, we will also exponentially-increase the chances of getting there in one piece.


Make Noise

Deer are generally skittish animals, and they tend to run out of an abundance of caution if they get startled.  Consequently, periodically making noise by revving the engine in neutral, honking the horn, or even sounding a vehicle’s alarm siren in deer territory can deter them from crossing until you’ve passed their position.  In fact, some experts believe that a good number of deer collisions are caused, in part, because vehicles are so quiet these days.


Use Light

Deer do get startled when they’re suddenly caught in the beam of headlights, but in most cases, this happens when they’re stationary in the roadway.  Deer that are running or jumping tend to be focused on what’s in front of them.  Try flashing headlights and turning on sport or utility lights as you drive down dark country roads.  This will maximize the profile of your vehicle while also emitting flashes that can scare deer away.


Stay Centered

The safest place to be in deer territory is in the center of the road.  This gives you, as well as the deer, room to escape in the heat of the moment.  It’s also recommended to drive straight toward a deer that you see in the center of the road ahead.  This can help them to process the fact that you’re bearing down on their position and pose an imminent threat.  It also helps you to reduce the chances of losing control of your vehicle from swerving.  If you end up hitting a deer, try to keep the wheel as straight as possible as you brake.



Use Common Sense

Deer often travel with others, so if you see one cross the road, there’s an increased chance that more will follow.  Slow down, make an assessment, and move forward with caution if you see a deer crossing down the road.  It’s also a good idea to be wearing a seatbelt.  Colliding with a deer at full-speed can be akin to driving into a concrete wall.  Have backseat passengers buckle up as well, because that kind of impact can easily send them flying through the vehicle cabin and possibly out a window.


In addition to following these tips, it’s also important to pay attention to the road while driving, maintain good situational awareness, and consider changing the time of day or route of travel if you’re going to be heading through an area that is known to have deer crossing issues.  Take some time to think about other things that we can do to stay safe while driving through deer country, and feel free to share any useful tips as well.




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