"Can you share tips to help drivers avoid wildlife on the roadway? Most drivers seem to ignore Deer Crossing signs. Also, do deer alerts mounted on the front bumper work?"
– customer Donna S.
Donna, we turned to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to get answers to your questions. Deer, we learned, are the deadliest animals in North America! Each year, more than 1.5 million drivers hit deer, killing approximately 150 people and causing $1 billion in vehicle damage. Notoriously unpredictable, deer are often drawn to roadsides by lush grass and salt buildup left by wintertime deicing efforts. Fall is the most dangerous time because, during their mating season, deer are too distracted to worry much about cars (one-half to two-thirds of collisions occur from October through December).
Here are IIHS's top five tips to avoid deer collisions:
- Cut your speed around dawn and from dusk to midnight, the most likely times for a deer collision. Of all the crash-reduction techniques IIHS studied, temporary deer warning signs that caught drivers' attention did the most good, cutting deer strikes by half. (As you noted, Donna, drivers tend to tune out the permanent signs.)
- Use your high beams on rural roads. You have a better chance of catching a reflection from the deer's eyes.
- If you see one deer, expect more and slow down.
- Don't swerve. As sad as it sounds, you're probably safer just hitting the deer. Swerving can lead to deadly rollovers or collisions with trees, light poles, or other cars. Slow down as quickly as possible, stay in your lane, and maintain control. The Humane Society notes that swerving may, in fact, make things worse by confusing the deer and sending it bounding toward your car rather than away from it.
- Buckle up and adjust your head restraint. In deer collision investigations, IIHS learned that 60-65% of fatalities occur among people who aren't properly restrained and protected.
And those ultrasonic deer whistles? We've been following reports for a few years and, unfortunately, they just don't seem to work.
The Northwest is taking proactive steps to help humans and wildlife co-exist safely on our highways. Great examples are the 20 planned "green" underpasses and bridges on Washington's massive I-90 Snoqualmie Pass East expansion project. Filled with natural vegetation, they encourage wildlife big and small to safely go over and under the highway – well away from traffic – as they search for food and territory. See a video about wildlife collisions.