Oh, Deer! Hints for Avoiding a Fall Collision
As we count down to Halloween night, Fauquier County braces itself for a season of menacing creatures lurking in the night, beasts ready to burst out of the darkness at a moment’s notice. Beware the Odocoileus virginianus, a creature far scarier than any zombie or werewolf.
You likely know this creature by its more common name: the white-tailed deer.
Make no mistake about it: deer are dangerous animals. As familiar as we all are with deer sightings around these parts, collisions with wildlife remain a frequent occurrence. October ushers in rutting season, a time when the bucks are in heat and the deer population is extremely active. Be prepared.
Here are some tips to keep you, your passengers, and your vehicle safe.
Be Extra Alert
When you see those “DEER XING” signs, take heed. Remember, you need to be extra vigilant during the hours around dusk and dawn, as deer are prone to travel in low-light conditions. When oncoming traffic is at a minimum, turn on your high beams for added visibility. In the dark, the reflection of a deer’s eyes in your headlights might be all you ever see. Always scan both sides off the road visually across the horizon. If you spot a deer, know that others are likely close by as they rarely travel alone. If you have multiple lanes to choose from, select the one closest to the center of the road. Deer often bound from one side to the next. Any additional time you can buy yourself, the better.
Lowering your speed is the greatest defense against collision. Always allow enough time to brake within the distance of your headlight beams. Driving at 55mph affords you a bit of leeway for braking on the highway, but it all depends on your reaction time. Also, never tailgate your fellow motorists, especially in deer country.
No Crazy Moves
With only milliseconds to react, what is your first response to a deer in your path? Do you slam on the brakes, or do you swerve to avoid hitting it?
Experts suggest the following:
- Apply the brake firmly.
- Angle the front of the car slightly in the direction of the deer’s approach (not the direction in which it is moving).
- Ease up on the brake just before impact.
- Stay in your lane.
Drivers often forget about oncoming traffic when faced with an obstacle. Plus, you never know what conditions await after your vehicle leaves the road.
Lifting your foot off the brake allows the front of the vehicle to rise slightly, just enough to provide a better-situated hit. No one ever wants to collide with a deer, but swerving drastically to avoid it potentially puts you in harm’s way.
Be Road Ready
A vehicle with poor breaks, reduced visibility, diminished headlights, worn out tire treads, and poor steering is not equipped to handle the conditions imposed by a daily commute, let alone a risky driving situation. Always ensure your vehicle is properly maintained for the season.
Are you aware of the setting on your headrest? If a collision occurs, you don’t want whiplash. Another piece of advice, stay buckled up whenever you are in a moving vehicle. It may seem obvious, but people forget.
Let Them Know Where You Are
High beams provide greater visibility for you, but what happens if you detect deer in the distance? Flashing your lights and blaring your horn can sometimes help. Ideally you want to startle the deer away. Unfortunately, they are not the most intelligent species. Some deer may even be attracted to the sound of your horn. Never expect a deer to react the way you want it to.
Many people swear by deer warning devices like those found at Walmart. These items easily attach to the front of your vehicle and emit high frequencies designed to scare off wildlife. If you read the online reviews, you’ll see that many customers swear by them. At a price point under ten dollars, you don’t have much to lose. Be wary that some have questioned these products’ overall effectiveness.
Obviously, there is no substitute for an alert driver, a properly maintained vehicle, and defensive driving strategy. If you do hit a deer (it happens), remember the following:
- Document the accident.
- Call the police.
- Ensure the road is safe for other motorists.
- Assess the damage. Is the vehicle safe to drive? (Call a tow truck if necessary).
- Avoid contact with the animal.
People may feel inclined to help an injured deer. Remember, an animal in pain is an unpredictable threat. A deer can easily injure you in its attempts to flee. Additionally, deer ticks are capable of transmitting diseases to humans, so it is best to keep your distance.
Stay safe, and have a Happy Halloween!