deer 660x335This animal is an example of the enormous number of deer struck by vehicles each year. The toll is mind boggling. According to recent statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are one and a half million collisions with deer each year. Some 150 people are killed in those collisions. Vehicle damage is more than one billion dollars annually. According to State Farm Insurance, Pennsylvania leads the states with 115,000 collisions; Michigan is second with 97,000, and New York follows with 80,000 These figures are low, since many collisions are unreported. The number of deer struck is low also, since many run off into the woods and die.

Are all these collisions preventable? Not at all. Take, for example, a scenario where you’re driving at night at or below the speed limit, and the headlights from an oncoming car blind you precisely when a deer dashes into your lane. Or when a deer suddenly runs into your lane from heavy cover alongside the road, even in the daytime. Your reaction might not be quick enough to apply the brakes and avoid the collision. In my lifetime, I’ve had four collisions with deer. In every case, they ran into the side of my vehicle. All died, and all caused extensive damage. Three accidents occurred at night, and one at twilight. I never saw one of those deer before it struck my vehicle.

I’ve been lucky. I’ve missed dozens of deer by inches in my travels around the country. I live in an area where mule deer migrate to the valley from the mountains each winter. There are almost zero deer in the fields from June to early October, with the exception of a small herd of whitetails that never venture far from the river where they live. But when the migration starts in October, there are well over 1500 mule deer in the valleys. They stay until June, and dozens are killed by motorists who simply drive too fast, insisting on going the speed limit of 65 miles per hour, which, I believe is a serious mistake. My rule of thumb when driving at night in the valley full of deer is 50 mph, lower during the dangerous period of twilight when there’s little daylight and your headlights don’t illuminate the road ahead very well. There are indications that a collision might be imminent if you see a deer run across the highway ahead. Rather than continuing your speed, be aware for one or more deer following the first. If you see deer feeding or standing along the highway, reduce your speed immediately because animals are often confused at your presence and dart into the road with no warning. Most deer are killed during the rut when they tend to wander more in the evening. That’s typically November in most states, but can be later in the south.

There are suggested rules that minimize or eliminate your odds of striking a deer in areas where collisions are high.deer 44158 640 One is to remain alert, and don’t talk on cell phones (if they’re allowed). Keep your high beams on at all times unless there’s oncoming traffic. Deer whistles do NOT work. Moreover, they may give you a false sense of security. If a collision is imminent and you can’t brake in time, experts advise that you do not swerve to avoid the animal, since this can place you into the path of an oncoming vehicle or cause you to run off the highway. Instead, brace yourself, brake vigorously and safely, and be ready for the impact. Your air bag is apt to be deployed in hard collisions.

And all this refers to deer. There are many collisions in the country with elk or moose, compounding the vehicle damage, as well as injuries and fatalities.