Lots of people who live in rural areas will have plenty of stories about seeing deer while they are out driving. They might be on the sides of the road in fields or the woods. However, just about everyone has a story about deer crossing in front of them. It’s usually quite jarring when it happens. So, why do deer run into cars?
Although it’s an interesting wildlife encounter, deer are more dangerous than you might realize, especially when you are behind the wheel. It often seems like deer run right at cars to play chicken. Of course, that’s not the case. There are other reasons that we come into contact with deer so often when driving, and it causes a lot of problems.
Annually, there are around 1.5 million deer vehicle collisions around the world. The highest concentration of these accidents tends to be from October through December, which coincides with deer mating season and hunting season in many areas. In the United States, the odds of hitting a deer with a car is one in 116, with West Virginia being a leader when it comes to these types of accidents.
Why Do Deer Cross the Road…Right in Front of Your Car?
Some people might think that the reason deer are running into the road is because they can’t see well. They may believe that they don’t know the cars are coming, so they cross. That’s not true, though.
Deer vision is fantastic, including peripheral vision, which helps to keep them safe from predators. A deer’s eyes can even see well after dark since they have more photoreceptors in their eyes. A deer’s vision is superior to that of a human, even at night.
However, their excellent vision could be the reason that they end up on the road in front of our vehicles. Because they have all of those photoreceptors, it can be overwhelming for them when they are suddenly confronted with oncoming bright lights from your headlights.
This large animal will sometimes freeze in the middle of the road. The deer are disoriented and confused. They become the proverbial “deer stuck in headlights”, and sometimes cars aren’t able to stop in time.
In some cases, the confused deer might get so turned around that they run toward oncoming traffic rather than away from it. Other times, the deer looks before leaping and makes a bad judgment. They might be taking a chance because they have something behind them that’s following them, such as a hunter they are trying to flee.
Deer Can Do a Lot of Damage to a Vehicle
You’re a good person and you don’t want to hit Bambi and his brethren, but it’s not only about the safety of the deer. When you hit something as large as a deer, it’s going to do damage to your vehicle and often the passengers inside, as well. Hitting a deer could total a car, cause the airbags to go off, and could even cause you to veer off the road and get into a worse accident.
Therefore, you need to learn how to drive more carefully when you are in deer county to avoid a deer vehicle collision. You need to be sure that you are doing everything you can to reduce your risk of running into these animals while you are driving.
How to Avoid Hitting Deer with Your Car
Knowing the reasons deer run into cars is just part of the battle to avoid deer vehicle collisions, though. Now that you have an idea of why the deer are crossing the road, you need to know how to avoid them. When you are driving through rural and even suburban areas, you need to proceed with caution.
Watch the Road
Being cautious is important no matter where you are driving. When you are driving down a busy highway or on a surface street with pedestrians, you tend to drive carefully, watching the road for signs of trouble. However, when people get out into the rural areas, they don’t always keep up this level of vigilance.
That’s a big mistake. You need to pay careful attention to the road. Know what’s ahead of you and keep an eye on the sides of the road. You may be able to see deer and other wildlife that are approaching or standing there. Staying alert will let you know when you have to slow down further.
Be extra cautious when you are going around turns where the visibility is limited. You can’t see around the corner, and the deer may not realize that there is a car barreling toward them. They might move into the road thinking they are safe, which is not the case.
Keep Your Speeds Down
Speaking of speed, it’s a good idea to keep your speed down on rural roads, even if you have driven them before. The presence of deer changes things in a heartbeat. Keeping your speeds down will make it far easier for you to see the deer, as mentioned above, and it will give you more time to break. Even if you do hit a deer, a collision at a lower speed will help to reduce the severity.
Pay Attention to the Time
When you are driving through forested or mountainous areas, near farmland, or even in the suburbs, pay attention to when you are driving. Typically, deer will be more active and on the move between dusk and midnight, as well as the early morning hours. However, this could vary based on the location and the type of deer.
If you drive in these areas, it’s a good idea to learn more about the habits of the deer that live there.
Watch for Deer Crossing Signs
A deer crossing sign, which is typically a yellow triangular sign that shows a silhouette of a deer, will let you know that you are in a zone where deer cross roads. The signs are placed on certain areas of the road because they are known to be common deer crossings.
It does not mean that these are the only places where a deer might cross, of course. It’s just an area where there has been a lot of activity in the past. Be extra cautious in these areas for your safety.
Use Your High Beams
When driving through rural areas, you should use your high beams. This will give you a better view of the road. You can see further ahead and on the sides of the road. The extra illumination can help you spot deer before they jump into the road, allowing you time to slow down. Keep an eye out for the eyeshine from animals.
Keep in mind that if other cars are approaching, you will want to go back to your regular headlight setting until you pass one another. If there is a vehicle directly in front of you, keep on your low beams and slow down to let them get further ahead. This will also give you more braking time if they were to hit a deer.
After you’ve driven on rural roads enough, it will become second nature to turn your high beams on and off when needed.
Stop If You Can
If there aren’t any other vehicles immediately behind you and you see deer on the side of the road, stop and look at the deer. Most of the time, they will see the car approach and will get out of the way. If they don’t, honk the horn to prompt deer to move along. This could keep them safer from other vehicles on the road, too.
It’s Not Only One Deer in Most Cases
One of the other important things to remember when you are out driving is that deer don’t usually travel on their own. While there might be a lone male during certain parts of the year, deer tend to travel in herds. Just because you see one deer cross the road 25 yards in front of you doesn’t mean that there are three or four others ready to bound across the road as you approach, so watch for more deer.
Use Your Seatbelt
No matter where you are driving, you should make sure you and your passengers are wearing your seatbelt. They help to save lives during a collision whether it’s with another car or a deer. Seatbelts and good driving habits save lives and avoid vehicle damage.
Try to Stay in Your Lane
One of the reasons that so many serious accidents occur is because people see the deer and jerk the wheel to try to avoid them. It’s better to brake hard and stay in the lane. If you swerve out of your lane, you could hit an oncoming vehicle or veer off the road where you could hit a tree.
A Little Caution Goes a Long Way
Deer don’t want to run into your car, but it happens. They get scared, confused, and don’t know what to do, so deer jump into the road sometimes. As a human, you can use the tips above to help reduce your risks when you are out on the road. Keep the safe driving tips in mind whenever you are driving in deer country.