Oh, Deer, It’s Mating Season:
How to Keep from Hitting One—and what to do in Case of a Deer-Related Collision
Late autumn/early winter is the time for romance if you’re a deer. If you’re a driver, it’s a time to be extra cautious when driving in areas populated by these lovelorn—and therefore extremely hazardous—creatures. Late September through early January is deer mating season in Kansas (also called “rut”), which means females are in heat and males have about as much common sense as sailors on shore leave. With deer populations on the rise across America—currently about 30 million—so are deer/car collisions. The latest statistics show 1.25 million deer-related automobile crashes per year, resulting in around 150 human fatalities and over 10,000 injuries.
How to avoid a deer collision
Before we tell you how to avoid hitting a deer, you should know that, although hitting a deer can damage your vehicle badly, most serious injuries and fatalities are the result of drivers trying not to hit the deer, i.e., going off the road, hitting another object or swerving into oncoming traffic.
The safest course of action is usually to apply your brakes firmly, tighten your grip on the steering wheel and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop on the roadway or shoulder. Statistically, the risk of being hurt by colliding with a deer is much lower than that of being hurt by trying not to hit one. If you have to hit the deer to keep from hitting another vehicle, tree, guardrail, etc., the prevailing advice from professionals is “hit the deer.” That said, here are some guidelines that may help keep you out of danger:
- Wear your seatbelt. This obviously won’t prevent a collision, but—duh—seatbelts save a lot of lives.
- Pay extra attention at dawn and dusk. Although aroused deer seem to lose all sense of time, space and self-preservation at all times of day during rut, these are still peak times for unpredictable mating behavior. These are also the times of day when your vision is most compromised. Slow down and stay focused on the road—and what’s near the road. Slow down if you see any small flashes of light in the darkness to either side, as this may be a deer’s (or another animal’s) eyes reflecting your headlights.
- If you see one deer, assume that others are nearby. If you see a deer crossing the road, slow down. Deer often travel in groups, and during mating season, an attractive and eligible doe crossing the road may be followed by a handsome buck who only has eyes for her. Neither will be paying much attention to anything else, including traffic. That’s the way love is.
- Heed the signs.
Yellow-diamond deer crossing signs are there for a reason: deer tend to frequent certain environments and landscape features, and this is where wildlife and traffic experts place the signs.
- Drive in the center lane of multilane roads, if local law permits it when you’re not passing other traffic. This creates more distance and reaction time between you and the animal.
- Lean on the horn if you see a deer. Many experts say that a long horn blast is the best way to scare deer away from the road. If you’re in an area with a heavy deer population during rut, don’t be shy about periodically leaning on the horn to make sure all the animals in the vicinity know you’re around. Deer whistles have never been proven statistically effective, so don’t rely on them.
What to do if you hit a deer
Let’s hope you never need this information, but if you do hit a deer, here are some tips to keep you on-track in a bad situation:
- Pull over as soon as safely possible
- Turn on your hazard lights.
- Survey the situation, take a deep breath and stay in your vehicle until you’re sure it’s safe to step out.
- Keep your distance from the deer, even if it appears to be dead (it may not be deceased even when it’s perfectly still, and a hurt, disoriented deer can easily injure or kill a human).
- Call 911 if there are injuries, if any roadside property has been damaged or if the deer is in the road or another dangerous location. A deer may lawfully be removed from the road, if you decide to ignore rule #4—and if you’re absolutely sure the animal is dead. You may not, however, take the carcass for meat without purchasing a Wildlife and Parks Department permit (“deer tag”). Law enforcement officials can guide you through the appropriate steps, if you want to eat the deer yourself or donate it to charity.
- Contact your insurance agent.
Is a car drivable after a deer hit?
Every situation is different. Always take extra time to make sure your car is drivable before driving it away from the scene of a deer collision. Look for tire damage, broken lights, unlatchable hood, loose parts, leaking fluids or anything else that makes the vehicle unsafe.
What are the insurance implications of hitting a deer?
Most insurance companies cover a deer hit under both comprehensive and collision coverage, although a collision policy may not cover you if you don’t actually hit the deer. Ask your insurance agent about the specifics for your policy.
How much can deer-collision repair costs run?
The answer to this question is as varied as the kinds of damage that can result from a deer-related accident. Call the Auto Craft nearest you for advice on how to proceed and to learn what kind of cost options are available to make your vehicle safe, drivable and attractive again.