How to Avoid Hitting the Deer in Headlights!

How to Avoid Hitting the Deer in Headlights.

Admittedly, I didn’t always think about hitting deer or moose. But when my father and father-in-law were both involved in separate car accidents, just months apart, involving deer on the roadway, it became top-of-mind. Luckily, they weren’t seriously harmed and they managed to escape with only minor damage to the front-end of their cars.

I asked them what their reaction was and both said the deer seemed to “appear from nowhere,” which left them shaken up. The police who assisted them said that the best thing to do is drive defensively and always be alert, especially during the hours from dusk to dawn. They also said that collisions with larger wildlife like moose, deer or elk can result in extensive vehicle damage, serious injury, and even fatalities.

According to Allstate Canada claims data, between January and October 2017, there were over 850 claims from customers as a result of damage from collisions with wildlife.

yellow deer crossing sign

Here are some tips to help avoid collisions with wildlife:

  1. Pay attention to signs. Be alert and pay attention to the signs that warn you about popular areas for deer and other large animals. In many jurisdictions, it’s yellow diamond sign with a deer on it. Also, scan the roadway and ditches ahead and on both sides for signs of animals, like the reflection of deer’s eyes. If you have a front seat passenger, put them on “moose patrol” by having them scan the sides of the road to see if there are any animals lurking in the trees or ditches.
  2. Reduce your speed. High speeds reduce the distance required to stop and increase the force of impact in the event of a collision. Always drive defensively. Slow down, especially when driving at night or in poor visibility. Also, reduce your speed around blind curves, on unfamiliar roads that are near water, or on roads that are lined with trees that might be populated with wildlife.
  3. Use your headlights. Did you know that more than one-third of collisions involving animals happen between 7 p.m. and 11 p.m.? This is the timeframe when driver fatigue is also a factor. Drivers are more at risk of encountering wildlife when driving between sunset to midnight and around dawn. Use your car’s high beam headlights when possible, if there is no oncoming traffic (especially in rural areas). This will improve your visibility of the roadway.
  4. Pay attention to seasons and locations. There are certain seasons where you may be at higher risk of hitting large animals. Fall is deer and moose mating season, so they’re more likely to be roaming around than during any other season. And they travel in packs. The risk to drivers is especially high in remote areas where there is less traffic (and noise). If you are driving near wooded areas, drive with extra caution and remember if you see one deer, there could be more nearby.
  5. Stay centred. On a multi-lane road, a lane toward the centre of the road (in your direction of travel, of course!) is a safer bet for avoiding a deer collision. It gives you more time to react if an animal jumps onto the roadway from a ditch or wooded area on the side of the road.
  6. Wear your seatbelt. Hopefully this one is a no-brainer. While it may not prevent you from being involved in a collision, a seatbelt can help reduce injury in the event that you are unable to avoid wildlife.

What to do if you’re involved in a collision with an animal:

We hope you’ll never be in this situation, but if you are:

  1. Pull over to the side of the road as soon as it’s safe to do so. Turn your hazard lights on, check to see that you and your passengers are okay, and remain in your vehicle until you’re sure you are safe.
  2. Report the accident to the police. Even if your car hasn’t suffered any damage and you are not injured, the police can pass the information along to the Ministry of Natural Resources, or the government agency responsible for wildlife in your jurisdiction, to take care of the animal if it is wounded or if there is a carcass on the road.
  3. Do not approach the animal if it is still alive. It could be confused, disoriented, injured or dangerous.
  4. Contact your insurance company to let them know about the accident. Depending on the coverage you selected, your insurer may help pay to repair or replace your vehicle if it’s damaged. If you aren’t sure what kind of coverage you have, speak to your insurance agent or broker right away to find out more.
  5. Make sure your vehicle is safe to drive. Before you set back out on the road, do a quick safety check. Be sure to look for loose parts, tire damage, broken lights or glass, and leaking fluids. Also make sure your brakes work well, your windshield is clean, and your wipers are in good working order. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call a reputable tow truck company.

Have you ever been in a collision involving a large animal like a deer or moose? Any tips we missed? Let us know in the comments below.