The U.S. is full of deer. With an estimated 30 million of them wandering our hillsides (combined with a major rise in distracted driving), it’s no small wonder we experience a staggering 1.25 million deer-vehicle collisions each year. When a deer unexpectedly appears on a roadway, you have seconds to react. Here’s what you can do.
1. Know the riskiest times
2. Be aware of your surroundings
Pay attention to road signs indicating animal crossings. Scan the road and shoulders in front of you and slow at the first sign of a deer. If you see one, know that there are probably others nearby.
3. Use your headlights
If you’re driving in the early morning or evening, turn on your headlights (use high beams if there’s no oncoming traffic). In addition to generally aiding visibility, headlights will reflect off an animal’s eyes, making them easier to spot and avoid.
4. Don’t speed
6. Hit your brakes and stay in your lane
If you have no other option and a deer is in your path, take care not to swerve. Stay in your lane even if it means striking the deer. Swerving opens up other dangerous risks for drivers like hitting a tree, another car, or losing control of your vehicle. Brake firmly, taking your foot off the brake just before you hit the deer (this action should slightly elevate the nose of your vehicle, helping to reduce the chances of the deer hitting your windshield).
7. Pull over to safety and call the police
If you can still safely maneuver your vehicle, put your hazard lights on and pull over to a shoulder or roadside. Don’t leave the scene. Call the police to report the incident and to have them help assess the damage. Many states enforce strict penalties for fleeing the scene of an animal-auto collision.
If the deer is still alive, don’t approach it. Deer in distress can be dangerous. Keep a safe distance and wait for the authorities to arrive.