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Music was playing. The top was down. Perfect summer moment. “Deer!” my friend Kelly shouted from the passenger side—too late. Despite slowing down, it was clear we were going to collide.
The deer approached at an angle. My car, a VW Beetle, has a rounded front. The deer was scooped up, sliding up to and over the windshield. It flew over heads as the car’s momentum kept it moving forward. In midair the deer twisted, landing on its legs. When we pulled over it was gone, hopefully without serious injury. There was no damage to the car.
We were very lucky. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where the deer landed in the car, or hooves hitting us as the deer flew over the convertible. None of which happened, thankfully.
It did get me thinking—do I know how to best handle such emergencies?
Google to the rescue! The best advice came from insurance companies. Not surprising; they have a vested interest in the welfare of drivers, passengers, cars and I suppose even the deer.
Here are some tips compiled by Nathan Erb:
1. Watch for the rest of the gang. Deer are pack animals. If a deer crosses in front of you, chances are there are more nearby. Slow down. Keep an eye out for more deer darting across the road.
2. Timing is everything. Deer are most active at dusk and dawn: periods when your vision is most compromised. To add to their terrible timing, deer are on the move during mating season (between October and January) when you’re more likely to travel after the sun sets. Slow down. Stay alert. Especially after dark.
3. Wear your seat belt. It won’t prevent a collision, but if the inevitable happens a seat belt can reduce injuries—especially if you lose control and collide with something bigger and more stationary than a deer.
4. Take a moment to reflect. First, look for the road signs. The yellow diamonds with the deer on it are placed in high-traffic areas for deer. You may also spot a deer because their eyes will brightly reflect a car’s headlights, making them easier to spot.
5. Stay Center. On a multi-lane road, the center lane is your safest bet for avoiding a deer collision, as long as your local traffic laws permit it. This gives deer plenty of space; and in case your vehicle does startle them, it gives you more time to react if one darts onto the road.
6. Stay the course. If you see a deer, brake firmly and calmly. Stay in your lane. Swerving could make you lose control of your vehicle and turn a bad situation much worse. Not to mention, deer are unpredictable, and you could swerve directly into their changed path.
7. Honk! Some experts recommend that one long blast of the horn will scare deer out of the road. Do not rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer—studies have shown them to be largely ineffective at minimizing accidents.
Here are some tips to consider post-incident:
1. Pull to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so.
2. Turn on your hazard lights and remain in the vehicle until you are sure it is safe.
3. Call emergency services if injuries are involved or the local police for property damage. Be sure to report any damage to your auto insurance carrier.
4. Stay away from the deer. If it is still alive, it could be confused, injured and dangerous if approached. When contacting the authorities, let them know if the deer is in a dangerous spot on the road so that it can be removed.
It’s okay to fawn over safety. An accident could have horrible consequences on your health and pocketbook. So don’t shell out big bucks after an incident. Protect yourself, your passengers, your vehicle, other drivers and your doe by learning these tips if not for yourself, for those you hold deer.