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Oh Deer! Peak Time For Car-Deer Collisions Is Upon Us

By Staff | Oct 16, 2008

You’re driving down the road, heading home after a football game, perhaps you’re not as alert as you should be, maybe slightly distracted, listening to the radio, and suddenly, a brownish flash appears in front of your vehicle.

Oh deer!

According to information from State Farm Insurance, Iowans enjoy a one in 105 likelihood of a car-deer collision. The best chance of meeting up with Bambi on a dark road is in West Virginia – a one in 45 chance. Our fellow Americans in Hawaii don’t have it much better- they only stand a one in 10,962 chance of a deer saying “Aloha” to their vehicle.

No matter what state you’re driving in, what happens next is up to you.

Car-deer collisions are not an uncommon occurrence this time of year. All motorists need to be on the lookout for deer, but even more so during this time of year. The peak times for movement of deer are dawn and dusk. However, deer will move at any time of the day or night, so motorists must always be aware of the four-legged hazards.

According to Tom Welch, safety engineer with the Iowa Department of Transportation, deer are on the move more often at this time of the year due to several factors, but mostly due to harvest, the rutting season and hunting season. So, it just stands to reason that when deer are moving more, the number of collisions between deer and motor vehicles will also go up.

According to officials, there is no absolute answer to avoiding car-deer mishaps. The best defense, as the old saying goes, is to be proactive when it comes to driving at this time of year.

One of the most important things to do is to be extra-aware. When driving through areas where deer are known to be located, raise your awareness. Scan not only the road ahead, but look off to the sides of the roads and ditches ahead of you as well. Driving on curves and over hills are also reasons for increased awareness, due to the limited visibility.

If you spot a deer in a fence line, or at the edge of a roadway, slow down. Try honking your horn, or flash your headlights in an attempt to frighten the deer away.

A popular myth involves the use of sonic devices, or “deer whistles”, which, when attached to a vehicle, are supposed to emit ultrasonic signals that will frighten deer. However, scientific studies have never been able to prove that such devices actually work, so motorists shouldn’t rely on those devices.

Wildlife officials and law enforcement authorities all agree on one thing –

Don’t try to avoid collisions with deer. You’re much better off hitting the animal instead of swerving to avoid the collision. Striking a 200 pound deer will cause damage to a vehicle, and most likely the death of the deer, but a violent swerve or avoidance maneuver will most likely cause the driver to lose control of their vehicle, and the resulting mishap is usually worse than what might have resulted from colliding with the animal.

Another good rule of thumb when it comes to deer is the fact that if you see one deer, there are probably more in the vicinity. In the rutting season, a buck that isn’t paying much attention to cars may follow a doe that runs across the roadway. While a driver may see and miss the first deer, all too often it is the second or third deer that ends up in front of a vehicle.

According to statistics compiled by the Iowa DOT, 8,027 drivers reported collisions with deer in Iowa in 2007, with those collisions resulting in 12 deaths and an estimated 468 motorist injuries. The dangers of collisions with deer are not just limited to cars and trucks, either. As of August 31, 2008, three motorcyclists have been killed in collisions with deer.