Deer Present the Greatest Wildlife Threat to Drivers
Most drivers are
surprised to learn that deer are responsible for more
vehicular deaths and injuries than any other animal in the
United States. The average deer weighs between 125 and 300
lbs. and stands about 3.5 feet at the shoulder. That’s a
considerable object to hit while traveling at a high rate of
speed, plus the driver runs the real risk of not killing the
animal. If the deer is thrown through the windshield and is
still alive, its hooves are sharp as razor blades and can
inflict serious, even fatal injuries to the human body.
While only 2% of collisions between a deer and a car result
in a human fatality (about 200 per year), approximately
29,000 people are injured annually as a result of such car
accidents with the
subsequent auto insurance claims totaling in the
neighborhood of $1.5 billion. (When the collision is between
a deer and a motorcycle, the human fatality ratio jumps to
85%.) The average damage per incident to a car is
approximately $2,800. Multiply that by the 1.7 million
collisions reported yearly, and the 2 million or so that go
unreported, and the figures in terms of cost and potential
for human injury or death are startling. This may explain
why auto insurance
may be higher in rural areas where the danger of deer
collision incidents is statistically relevant.
More than 50% of
car accidents involving wildlife occur when the driver
swerves to avoid hitting the animal. Take a case in point.
On January 27, 2008 a minivan driven by 37-year-old Michael
Betts, Jr. lost control when he attempted to avoid hitting
several deer on Interstate 80 near Odessa, Nebraska. Betts
did hit one of the animals, however, at which time the
minivan was struck from behind by a truck pulling a trailer.
The minivan rolled and landed in the ditch killing the
driver's 14-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.
The months between
October and December are the most dangerous for deer-related
accidents. In some areas,
drivers face less than a 1 in 3 chance of being involved
in such a collision. There are a number of considerations to
remember and precautions to take when driving in an area
with a heavy deer population:
Deer are most active early in the
morning and during the evening hours.
Drive with your high beam
headlights whenever possible and be alert to movement and
deer eyes along the side of the road.
If one deer crosses the road
assume there will be others. They usually travel in groups.
Do not swerve when you see a deer
and slow your vehicle gradually. A sudden change in the
sound of your engine or the course of your vehicle will
panic the animal and cause it to bolt across the road.
Always wear your seat belt.
When striking a deer is
inevitable, hold your car steady and make the hit as direct
When you have stuck
a deer and you have stopped to assess the damage to your
Do not approach the animal or
touch it. If the deer is still alive it will be frightened
and in pain. A deer’s hooves are extremely dangerous as are
the antlers on a buck.
Pull your car off the road and
turn on your hazards to warn other vehicles.
Call the police, especially if the
carcass presents a danger to other drivers or if the wounded
animal must be destroyed.
devices exist that purport to frighten deer away from moving
vehicles and lessen the chance of a collision, nothing
replaces sound driving habits and vigilant driving,
especially during peak deer season and at dangerous times of