Driving Safety During Deer Season: Don’t Veer
As we enter the autumn season, with deer both mating and foraging for the oncoming winter, the risk of collision reaches its zenith. Of the 7,751 deer vs car accidents reported to Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) from 2008 to 2010, more than one-third took place in October and November.
With an estimated deer population of one million, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) cautions that, although crashes are a yearlong problem here in Minnesota, motorists should be hyper vigilant during deer breeding season and crop harvest activity, as these increase deer movement and result in added danger for motorists and motorcyclists. In fact, deer vs vehicle collisions (DVC) are responsible for roughly 200 fatalities every year in the United States according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Particularly lethal to motorcyclists, deer vs motorcycle collisions accounted for 84% of DVC deaths in the three-year span, according to the Office of Traffic Safety (a division of DPS). Their best advice: never veer for deer, as it often results in accidents with other motorists or from swerving off the road. Here are some additional precautionary measures you can take to ensure your family’s safety.
Don’t swerve to avoid deer. We can’t emphasize this one enough. A momentary swerve can cause you to lose control of the vehicle, sending you directly into oncoming traffic or off the side of the road leading to a potentially more dangerous crash.
Obey the speed limit in heavily forested areas and in areas known to have a high deer population. Slow down during hours from dusk until dawn.
Always wear your seat belt.
Be on the lookout. Deer often hover on the shoulder of the road or the edge of the woods before deciding to cross. You can often spot their eyes reflecting in your headlights. It’s a good idea to use your high beams as much as possible. Be particularly watchful from 6 to 9 p.m. (a high activity time for deer).
Expect the unpredictable. Deer can behave illogically and erratically, stopping in the middle of the road, re-crossing the road and even moving toward oncoming traffic. Encourage deer to move away from the road by blowing your horn. If this doesn’t work, and the deer remains on the road, do not attempt to go around it.
Don’t rely on deer whistles and fences. These devises were invented to deter deer from crossing roads but the efficacy of these tactics is debatable. Never assume they will work.
First of all, be sure to wear your helmet. If possible, do not ride at night or when there is insufficient light. According to the Office of Traffic Safety, “a rider’s best response when encountering a deer is to use both brakes for maximum braking and then drive carefully around the animal at low speed if there is space. If a crash is imminent, keep eyes and head up to improve chances of keeping the bike up.”
But what do you do if you hit a deer?
If you’re a resident of Minnesota you have the right to claim any road-killed animal. To do this, contact a law enforcement officer who will issue an authorization permit.
If you hit a deer but it is not killed, do not approach it. Many times, a deer can recover and leave on its own. If it does not leave and/or creates a risk to public safety, report what happened to a local law enforcement agency, or better yet a DNR conservation officer.