What’s the most dangerous animal in North America?
The shark? The bear? Nope. It’s the deer.
About 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions (DVC) happen each year in the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Those accidents cause about 150 deaths and $1.1 billion in property damage annually, according to NHTSA. The Insurance Information Institute says, on average, a vehicle collision with a deer will cost an insured more than $3,000 in damages. By comparison sharks were responsible for about 10 deaths in the U.S. in the last 10 years. And as for bears, bearplanet.org says there have been 28 deaths caused by bears in North America in the last decade.
There have been many studies done and methods tried to reduce these numbers. Here’s a quick run-down.
Fencing, combined with underpasses and overpasses as appropriate, is the only broadly accepted method that is both sound in theory and proven to be effective. But they’re expensive to construct and maintain, and even the best fencing will not prevent all deer from entering a roadway. A hungry deer will clear a 7’ fence in search of a meal. And detouring around the end of a fence just reroutes the danger zone.
There are many different deer whistles on the market, all claiming to alert deer to your approaching vehicle and deter them from crossing in front of you. But they don’t work. State wildlife agency and transportation department administrators have ranked whistles the least effective of common DVC prevention methods. They have determined that there is no firm evidence that whistles are effective and considerable evidence that they are not. So, in the absence of any solid studies that whistles work, they cannot be recommended.
Because Deer Crossing signs are used so frequently where deer cross only occasionally, it is common for drivers to ignore them. However, a recent study in Alberta, Canada showed that when warning signs are specifically placed in a location where deer are known to cross, they can reduce collisions by 34%. One set of data claimed collisions dropped from 139 to 78 where signs were posted in known hotspots. So don’t ignore them. Signs work!
What should you do?
• Stay alert and look for signs: The easiest way to avoid crashes is to stay alert and aware of your surroundings while driving – a best practice in any season. Drivers should also look for posted signs regarding deer crossing, as studies have found that crash risk can be reduced by up to 34% when signs are posted.
• Recognize movement patterns: You’re most likely to see a deer at dawn or at dusk, and if you do see a deer, always slow down. Deer typically travel in groups, so if you see a deer crossing alone, you should wait a few minutes – more deer are likely to follow.
• Don’t swerve to avoid a deer collision: If colliding with a deer becomes inevitable, it is better to apply the brake hard and fast rather than try to swerve in another direction; this could cause a more serious accident with another vehicle, guardrail or tree. Brake firmly, holding tightly onto the steering wheel, and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.
While there is no sure way to prevent a collision with a deer, these tips can lessen the likelihood you’ll become a Deer Vehicle Collision statistic.
We care about your safety!