Deer Collisions

  How to Avoid a Deer Collision 

The Cedar Mountain Fire Protection District hopes you find this information helpful.  Be careful driving on the mountain for your safety as well as the animals that live there.

Every year, deer collisions are all too prevalent on North American roads. Colliding with these animals is potentially fatal for the humans and at the very least, is likely to cause a lot of damage to your car (let alone to the animal). Here are some suggestions for avoiding collisions in the first place.

Collisions occur most often in prime deer habitat such as forested areas, etc. When you see the road signs, they're not there for the tourists; they mean that the area you are traveling through is deer territory and that you need to take extra care. Deer cross roads for a wide variety of reasons and at different times of the year. Often they want to get to another part of their habitat. Keep in mind that just because you haven't crossed paths with a deer in the past few months, that doesn't mean you never will. Stay alert.

Do not speed when you are driving through deer country. You'll still arrive if you go more slowly and you'll have more time to avoid an animal if you spot it. Wildlife experts have recommended 55 mph as a suitable speed for wildlife zones in good weather conditions, as it provides you with some reaction time.  Of course, in blizzards, heavy rain and other difficult weather, you should adjust your speed to the distance you are able to see and to take into account the amount of ice on the road.

Be prepared to take evasive action, which includes being able to quickly slow down, brake suddenly or turn down blinding headlights. Drive so that you are able to stop within the space of your headlights; practice this in a safe area if you don't know how fast this is for your vehicle. Make sure your seat belt is on and check that all passengers are wearing theirs as well. A sudden lurch could have people catapulting from the car.

Actively scan the sides of the roads as you drive for any signs of wildlife. If you have passengers, get them involved but ask them not to shout out as this is very startling and can cause the driver to react incorrectly. Ask them to gently tell you that they see deer lurking about. Look on the road sides, the shoulders, down into ditches (they love the grass there), median strips, intersecting roads, on the road itself and try to spot any signs of movement, flashes of eyes or body shapes. Watch both sides of the road; there is some evidence that drivers tend to watch the side of the road next to the passenger seat more than their own side, making a false assumption that only one side is a problem. Scan both sides!

Deer seem to move most in the hours around sunset to midnight and again around dawn. These are also the hardest times for our eyes to adjust to the light (it's neither completely dark nor properly light), so we find it more difficult to see well.  

Use your high beams where possible; they will illuminate more of the area that you are travelling through.  Make sure your windshield is clear and is not reflecting grime, preventing you from seeing clearly; and drive below the speed limit, which has fuel economy benefits as well as safety benefits. Scan the sides of the road for animals' reflective eyes, often visible at a great distance at night. Sometimes this is the only visible part of the animal until it is directly in your path.

If you suddenly have a deer before your car, brake firmly. Do not swerve and leave your lane; many accidents are not due to colliding with the deer but are the result of driving into another car or truck in the opposite lane while trying to avoid the animal.  Try to skim rather than fully impact the animal. Brake firmly, angle the car/truck and take your foot off the brake as you impact. The release of the brake will cause slight lift of the vehicle and this may be enough to stop the animal from rising into your windshield if your vehicle is tall enough.

There are some important steps to take after assessing if everyone has survived okay.  Pull over if possible. Put your hazard lights on and if you can, put the headlights onto the animal or as close as possible. Check passengers for injuries and treat accordingly. Even if there are no injuries, shock will probably occur fairly quickly. Try to reassure one another and if it is cold, put on warmer clothing immediately as shock or fear increases the inability to ward off cold. If it is winter, stay in the car for warmth. Avoid going near the animal; it may kick or gore you from fear and pain. If it blocks the road, use your hazard lights and headlights and keep your car stationary. Only attempt to move the animal if you are 100% certain that it is dead.   

The CMFPD hopes you find these tips helpful.


                                                                                    Mike Petullo CEM, Chairman

                                                                                    CMFPD Board of Trustees