Deer in the Headlights
Just picture it — you’re driving on a winding road blasting some music, enjoying your time with family and friends, when something pops out in front of you. Do you brake? Do you try to swerve around the thing? Animals seem to have other things on their mind near the roads, and can often jump out at us while we drive, which can cause major safety issues. These moments need a quick response but it can be challenging to think through what to do and then do it on the fly. That’s why we’re providing some guidelines to help prevent a collision between your car and an animal during this season!
- Fasten your seatbelt. While this will not help you avoid hitting an animal, it is the best way to help ensure safety for you and the passengers in your car. Buckle up during every auto trip!
- Pay attention to animal-crossing signs. These yellow, diamond-shaped signs on the side of the road with an animal picture on them (deer, moose, bear) warn you about areas where the pictured animal is known to cross the road.
- Use your high beams whenever possible (as long as there is not oncoming traffic) during this time of the year. The extra light does a great job of revealing your surroundings, and is especially good at lighting up animal eyes along the side of the road, where deer and other wildlife are most likely to congregate.
- Honk your horn in short bursts (for deer)If you are in an environment with a high likelihood for deer crossings, honk your horn in short spurts throughout the drive to scare away any deer that may have been near the road. However, honking your horn too much may confuse the deer and lead them closer to the road, so make sure you are rationing out those honks throughout the trip.
- Be especially alert at dawn and dusk. Animals are most likely to be roaming at dawn and dusk, so stay especially alert during these times to avoid collision.
If a Deer in the Headlights appears on the road…
- Never swerve! Don’t do it. The instinctual action of swerving can actually cause more harm than good because you may swerve into the other lane with oncoming traffic, a tree, a fence, or road sign, which can increase your chance of injury.
- Drive towards where the animal came from. Roaming wildlife are most likely to either stand where they are discovered in fear or will run onward in the continual direction from whence they came. If you feel you can safely maneuver your car, your best option to miss the animal is to drive towards the direction where the animal came from (this will not work for deer).
- Brake firmly. Unless there is a car directly behind you, brake firmly and safely slow your vehicle. If there is a car close by, slow down, but make sure to honk your horn to signal to the other driver that there is a problem ahead. By the way, Mythbusters busted the myth that speeding up will decrease your chances of injury — so don’t do that!
- Lean towards a door pillar. In the event of an unavoidable crash, leaning towards a door pillar will give an extra layer of protection between you and the approaching impact. In most instances of a severe collision between man and animal, the center of the car is crushed, so lean towards the door pillar to benefit from the added protection of the pillar.
Under every circumstance, you should also always make sure you are driving at a safe speed — those speed limits are more than a suggestion! Following the posted speed for a specific stretch of road gives you the benefit of being under control regardless of twists and turns and unexpected visitors!