It's officially that time of year. It gets dark pretty early, the night air is cold and crisp, and every turn you make, there's a deer waiting to jump out in front of your car. Fall and winter, specifically October and November, are premium months for deer mating, which also means they're premium months for driver-deer collisions. There are hundreds of deer related fatalities every year across the country, and one of the main reasons is because drivers still do not feel comfortable in heavily deer populated areas. Too many of us freeze up whenever we see a deer, with our minds running back and for between flooring it away from the deer or creeping like a snail around them. We've put together these tips that will hopefully make your deer driving experience less dangerous this winter.
- Drive Defensively: If you've been in this area for awhile now, you have an idea of how heavy the deer concentration is in your neighborhood. Be on the watch for deer as you're leaving out and coming home; don't tailgate other cars in front of you, and do not let anyone bully you into going faster if you're not comfortable. Many deer related accidents happen between two vehicles because one car will swerve or stop short to avoid a deer and collide with another car.
- Wait before You Continue: If you see a deer crossing your driving path, wait about 15-30 seconds before you continue driving. Deer are pack animals and rarely travel alone. Usually, they move in families so if you see, be sure to look out for more.
- Expect Them in the City: Deer aren't just in the woods and rural areas; with more and more construction taking place in suburbia there has been an increase in deer migration to the city. Grassy areas off highway ramps, certain parks, and even shallow tree lines can be home for deer who attempt to travel via major roadways like 495, Route 66, and US-50.
- Use Your Lights: depending on where your from you heard different things about deer and headlights. The best thing to do if you see a deer in your path is to actually use your lights to 1) see the deer in front of you and 2) it helps alert other drivers around you to the deer to avoid an unexpected swerve or collision.
- Honk: Sometimes deer will take their time to cross the street. They may get entranced by your lights, or they may be waiting for you, since you reached the sign first and you have the right of way. Regardless as to why, it's important to get the deer out of your path so that you can continue on your drive. Try one long honk to startle the deer, and hopefully scare him off in the opposite direction.
- Hit It: worse case scenario: you just can't avoid hitting the deer, because there's either no room to swerve, or you can't brake in time. It's not ideal, but it's certainly less dangerous and costly than hitting another car or tree trying to avoid it. Many deer related driver fatalities happen as a result of trying to avoid the deer and hitting a larger, more unmovable force, such as a tree, a light pole, or even another car. If you do hit the deer, call 911 and report it, so that the rest of us can get through our morning commute without swerving around a dead Bambi in the center lane. If you experience a run in with a deer, contact FAR to have your vehicle checked out for damage restored to full driving capacity!