Deer in the headlights

deer in headlights

In 2015, there were about 1.26 million deer-related collisions. About 200 of these crashes result in fatalities. There are about 10,000 injuries and over a billion dollars in property damage annually. Ambulances are not immune. There is a case history in the NAEMT Safety Course, which describes a fatality that occurred when the driver swerved to miss a deer. Last year, a driver had a 1 in 169 chance of hitting a deer, down from 1 in 174 during the previous reporting period. Here are the states with the highest risk:

West Virginia
 1 in 44      
  1 in 41
   1 in 65
   1 in 63
   1 in 73    1 in 68
South Dakota
   1 in 75    1 in 73
   1 in 77
   1 in 70

Living in a state that is not “high risk” doesn’t make you safe. It is estimated that there are around 30 million deer in the United States. Urban growth encroaches upon the forests in which deer like to live, resulting in habitat fragmentation.  The likelihood for deer encounters increases in areas that are sparsely populated with roads built along rivers, lakes, mountains or plains. October, November, and December are month’s deer car collisions occur most frequently, but they can occur anytime.

40% of deer car crashes occur between 6:00am – 8:00am, and 3:00pm – 8:00pm. Deer have a tendency to travel in herds. They freeze when startled.  Deer are on all roads and behave unpredictably. Deer season gives us a great opportunity to practice our defensive driving skills. To avoid a deer-vehicle crashes think about the following:

  • Use extra caution at dawn and dusk.
  • Scan roads and roadsides ahead.
  • Reduce speed at night and use high beams when they can be used safely.
  • Slow down when approaching moose, deer, or elk standing in the roadside. They may jump in front of you.
  • Deer, moose, and elk travel in pairs or groups. If you see one, anticipate others.
  • Briefly use flashers, or a headlight signal to alert other drivers when creatures are spotted on or near roadways.
  • Be aware of the areas with the greatest likelihood of deer.
  • Don’t rely on devices like deer whistles, extra lights or reflectors. Your best defense is intelligent driving.
  • If a deer crash is unavoidable, keep both hands on the wheel, brake firmly (slow down), and do not swerve (stay in your lane.)

deer in headlights
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