Deer present unique challenges to drivers

MERIDEN, Conn.—October through December is the high season for car crashes with deer. Each year, car collisions with deer account for more than 150 human and nearly 1.5 million deer fatalities. Experts attribute it to the combination of deer mating and migration habits and shortened daylight hours.

“More drivers are on the road at dawn and dusk, the very time of day when deer are most active,” cautioned Ray Palermo, director of public relations for Response Insurance, a national car insurer. “A car striking a 200-pound adult deer can not only result in the death of the deer, but also incur an average of $2,000 in damage to the vehicle.” Palermo suggested a few basic cautions for drivers.

Scan a wide swath of the roadside. Slow down when approaching a deer standing near the side of a road and be prepared. If startled, the deer can bolt onto the road. If necessary, honk your horn and flash your lights.

Be alert for more deer than you may see at that moment. Where there is one deer, there are often more.

It is best not to swerve around the deer since the deer may move in the same direction. You may also inadvertently hit another vehicle, or go off onto a dangerous shoulder. Unless certain of those road factors, it is often best to simply brake and continue in your lane.

Be careful at dawn and dusk and when driving either over a hill or around a curve, where visibility is limited. Use your high beams to give you a greater area of visibility and allow you to see the deer’s eyes sooner.

Deer whistles or ultrasonic deer avoidance systems attached to vehicles have never been proven to work by independent studies and may give drivers a false sense of security.

Take deer crossing signs seriously, particularly those installed specifically for this time of year. Be particularly cautious in wooded and agricultural areas where there is little distance between the road and the woods.

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from the Oct. 24-30, 2007, issue

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