Deer looking at cameraThe deer has dethroned the dog as the car’s worst natural enemy:  More fatal accidents involve deer than any other animal, and thirteen thousand deer-vehicle crashes over a span of 5 years has cost over $45 million in Utah alone.  The deer don’t come out too well, either—30% of deer fatalities are in deer-vehicle collisions.

For the sake of both humans and deer, some modification is needed.  Some easy remedies have been tried, but proven ineffective:  car whistles and reflectors apparently don’t do what they claim to.  One suggestion that has garnered national attention is removal of deer crossing signs in high-traffic areas to discourage the deer from thinking they have a right to the road.  (Needless to say, this method has not gained much ground since it was first proposed.)  More and more, the evidence is pointing to a solution that involves a change in driving behavior.

1.  Slow down.—a website whose existence is surprisingly justifiable—states that slowing down is the best way to avoid a deer-vehicle collision.  However alert you may be, your ability to stop abruptly or swerve when a deer darts in front of your vehicle are severely compromised when you were going to fast to begin with.

2.  Know deer’s rituals.

Without becoming overconfident in your ability, you can, to some extent, predict when you are most likely to encounter deer.  They are most active between 6 and 9 p.m., or early in the morning.  Typically, they return to the woodland when it gets light.   Their visible hours can be expected to expand during their mating/migration season in October, November, and December.  However, your vigilance should not end when the mating season does if you don’t want to contribute to deer’s dwindling population:  “If you hit a doe between November and June, there’s a good chance she was pregnant.”  While knowing how deer operate generally is helpful, you should cultivate a habit of perpetual watchfulness.

3.  Pay attention.

You can’t expect to avoid a deer-vehicle collision if you can’t see the road.  Whether there are deer out or not, distractions like food, cell phones, iPods, etc. should be stowed out of sight while you’re steering to keep sources of visual and cognitive distraction at bay.

4.  Expect company.

Deer often travel in small groups; and you see one, you should be prepared for more to appear.  In wooded regions, you may get a sudden visit at virtually any time.  Remember, in addition, that you may spot more than one or two deer on a single commute—the laws of probability do not bind deer to appear at certain times, as the “deer magnet” of Iowa can attest.

As much as deer might aggravate you, they have nothing on human drivers.  There is no accident, even a deer-vehicle collision, that cannot be made worse by another person’s poor reaction to the situation.  This is why Christensen & Hymas offer free consultations to people who have been injured in such accidents and are looking for resources to cope with their injury.  To get yours, call (801) 506-0800.

Image courtesy of USFS Region 5