As the festive season approaches and daylight dwindles, drivers have more than just holiday traffic to be mindful of: the heightened likelihood of deer strikes. With fall in full swing and winter on its heels, deer become more active, driven by both mating instincts and the quest for food. The shorter days also mean that their active times often overlap with rush hour traffic. In this piece, we’ll delve into the specifics of when and where these encounters are most probable, strategies to dodge a potential deer strike, and steps to take if a collision appears unavoidable.
When and Where Are Deer Strikes Most Likely?
Season & Time of Day: The highest risk of deer strikes happens from October through January. This period sees an uptick in deer movement due to both the mating season and the search for new feeding locations. Most deer strikes occur during dawn and dusk when deer are most active and visibility for drivers is compromised.
Location: Areas near woods, forests, or open fields are hotspots for deer activity. Roads that cut through these habitats or are adjacent to them pose a higher risk. Additionally, if you’re driving in an area where you’ve seen deer before, chances are, you might spot them there again.
Other Factors: Deer are herd animals. If you see one, expect others nearby. Also, during mating season, male deer can be especially aggressive and might venture onto roads unexpectedly.
How to Avoid a Deer Strike
Scan the Horizon: Regularly scanning the horizon can help spot a deer well in advance. Remember, deer eyes reflect light, so they may appear as bright points in the distance during low light conditions.
Heed the Warning Signs: Many high-risk areas have deer crossing signs. Take these seriously, reduce your speed, and stay alert.
Situational Awareness: Turn on your high beams when there’s no oncoming traffic. This increases visibility, especially during dawn and dusk.
Stay Mindful of Wooded Areas: If you’re driving beside or near a forest, be extra cautious. Slow down and be prepared to stop.
When a Deer Strike Seems Inevitable
Cut Your Speed: If a collision seems likely, reduce your speed as quickly and safely as possible. However, don’t slam on the brakes, especially if someone is close behind you.
Avoid Swerving: It’s instinctual to want to swerve and avoid the animal, but this can result in a more dangerous accident, like hitting oncoming traffic or a tree.
Stay in Control: Grip your steering wheel firmly, keep your vehicle straight, and prepare for impact.
Reporting a Crash
If the unfortunate happens, and you end up hitting a deer:
Move to Safety: If it’s possible and safe, move your vehicle off the road to avoid further collisions.
Check Everyone’s Condition: Before anything else, ensure that all passengers are okay.
Don’t Deal with an Injured Animal: An injured deer can be unpredictable and dangerous. Stay in your car and keep a safe distance.
Call 911: Even if the damage seems minimal, it’s important to report the accident. They’ll guide you on the next steps.
Notify Your Insurer: Lastly, notify your insurer of the crash. It is recommended that you take pictures of the crash site, including your car, the animal, and surrounding area. Work with your agent to file your claim.
Deer Strikes Takeaway
The stunning allure of fall and winter also brings a heightened risk of deer encounters on the road. However, with heightened awareness, adequate preparation, and informed decisions, drivers can safely traverse this season. It’s vital to tailor your driving to the current conditions, remain vigilant, and above all, listen to your gut feelings.
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