5 ways to avoid a car-deer collision

Bambi is dangerous.​

Bambi is cute, but not in your headlights at 55 miles per hour.

Over 1 million people hit a deer each year in the United States. This kills most of the deer. It also kills about 200 people each year. Yes, Bambi kills. Deer are far more dangerous than wolves. Really. In fact, only two people in North America have been killed this century by wolves.

​The American Deer Lottery.
​Your chances of meeting a deer head-on depend upon where you live and drive. Overall, your chances of hitting a deer are 1 in 169.

These numbers vary drastically from state to state, with Pennsylvania usually topping the list, to Arizona near the bottom (Hawaii always is at the very bottom. Virtually no one in Hawaii every hits a deer. But hey- they have sharks to worry about.)

In every state, the odds against you go up in the Fall, when romantic bucks are moving around a lot. It’s mating season. Nearly half of deer collisions occur between October and December.

It doesn’t matter when or where it happens. It’s no fun if it happens. ​The average deer-car collision costs over $3,000 in damage to your vehicle, makes a huge mess, and pretty much ruins your day (or night).

​Suddenly, it’s your turn. You won the Deer Lottery. What do you do?

Defensive strategies that work.
​Besides wearing your seat belt and driving the speed limit, there are five things you can do to miss a head-on appointment with a deer:

1. Slow down at dusk and dawn.
Consider driving a little under the speed limit during the time when deer are most active. That’s dusk and dawn, and those times are also the most difficult to see deer.

2. Hug the center lane or line when possible.
Even a few feet of added space between you and the edge of the road could make a huge difference. This may add additional response time. Of course this depends upon all kinds of things like: are you on a multi lane freeway, what are current road conditions, and of course keeping it safe and legal.

3. Use highs and watch for eyes.
High beams on your headlights will illuminate deer eyes in a really cool and almost creepy way. There’s all kinds of science behind that. (You can read about it here.) This will give you more advance warning, especially after a full sunset. Of course, don’t shine those brights on the oncoming cars. Be safe and legal.

​4. Watch for the gang. Deer are almost never alone.
If you see one set of eyes on the side of the road, slow down and watch for the rest. And if one deer bounds across the road, you can bet more will follow. No one wants to be left behind.

​5. Honk, brake firmly and don’t swerve.
Let’s assume that impact is unavoidable. A deer is literally in your headlights and you are closing fast. Practice this in your mind a few times. HONK. Stay on the horn. No little polite “toot-toots.” This often will jolt the deer out of its stupor and save both of you. But if that doesn’t work, for goodness sake, HIT THE BRAKES. (That should go without saying.) Now here’s where your brain will have trouble: DON’T SWERVE. Everything in your instincts will tell you to swerve. That’s a really bad thing to do. The deer may jump at the last second and you will end up hitting it anyway. More likely though, you’ll flip your vehicle, or lose control and hit something else like a tree or another vehicle.

If a collision is unavoidable- HIT THE DEER.

Your odds are better. Experts agree. Don’t swerve.

​The good news.
Auto insurance companies know that it’s not your fault when you run into a deer on the road. You most likely have comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance, and that should normally cover it. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage on your car (or you don’t know what that is)… call your local insurance agent. Like right now. Get comprehensive coverage. It’s deer season.