Deer Strikes: The Hazard of Fall and Winter Driving

If you are driving for business, especially in the fall and winter months, you are at a higher risk for collisions. You may be thinking this is because of the harsher weather conditions. This is true, but it isn’t the only thing to be concerned about. Many areas of the U.S. have a high risk for deer strikes during this time of year. It can of course happen at any time, but during these months mating season and lack of vegetation affect deer behavior and put you at risk while you are on the road. It is important to understand deer behaviors and how to protect yourself from possible danger while on the road.

Deer Collisions

Deer collisions and strikes are currently on the rise. West Virginians  has the most likelihood of a vehicle hitting a deer while on the road, with motorists in Ohio and Michigan shortly behind them. The Federal Highway Administration found that in West Virginia alone, there was a 1 in 42 chance a vehicle would strike a deer in the following 12 months. If you are driving through one of these states, you need to be more cautious than you might normally be with the threat of deer strikes. However, any time you are in a location with deer warning signs, take particularly close attention. A deer strike accident isn’t just about harming the deer, but damaging your vehicle and putting yourself and the safety of others at risk.

Increase During Fall and Winter Seasons

There are three primary influences as to why fall and winter months have a higher risk for deer strikes:

  • lack of food
  • mating
  • hunting season

Because deer rely on vegetation, it becomes scarce during the fall in many areas of the country when it dies. This causes deer to retreat to other locations in search of food, which often means darting out and running across highways, creating the risk for collisions.

Mating season occurs between October and November, which happens to be when the most deer accidents happen. Bucks are not as cautious during this time, often running across roads regardless of the traffic.

Finally, deer hunting season occurs annually each fall. Deer being tracked by hunters get startled and may run into highway traffic. They tend to get away from the forests where hunters gather, and head toward the nearby roads.

Tips for Preventing Your Risks

Now that you understand a little more about deer behavior and why these months are so critical, you should learn how to prevent your risks for a vehicle collision with a deer. Remember deer can come out to the roads and highways at any time of the year, so remain cautious year-round. You simply need to be more aware during the fall and winter months.

  • Be careful at night. While deer can come out at any time of the day, they are most active at dusk between 6pm and 9pm (and again at dawn by the way). This is when you need to be especially cautious and drive slower in areas where deer frequent.
  • Use  your high beams.  When driving at night, use your high beams while driving on roads with minimal lighting sources. This not only alerts you to nearby deer, but it generally scares them off.
  • Look for deer crossing signs.  If you are not sure if deer may be present in a particular area, pay attention to the road signs. There should be deer crossing signs where they are more active.
  • Watch for herds.  Many times, deer travel in herds. If you have just missed hitting one deer, be extra careful on the road because more might be following.
  • Do not swerve.  It is tempting to swerve out of the way of a deer, but you may be putting yourself at more danger. The best thing to do is make sure your belt is fastened and come to a stop as quickly as is safe.
  • Avoid distractions.  Always be cautious on the road and don’t let yourself be distracted. Keep the radio low, don’t use your cell phone, and avoid eating or drinking while driving in areas highly populated with deer.

Deer strikes are not always possible to avoid, especially when driving through a heavily populated area in the fall.  Follow these deer strike prevention tips and protect your business with a commercial auto insurance policy.