Deer vs. Car: 8 Tips to Safely Avoid an Animal Vehicle Collision

animal vehicle collision risk

Avoiding an animal vehicle collision is as important as the drive itself.

So, picture this: You’re cruising down a scenic Oregon road, the sun is setting, and you’re enjoying the beauty of the landscape.

With the expanse of Oregon’s beauty and unique landscapes, there are an official 29 designated scenic byways in our state alone. These scenic byways are designated by the National Department of Transportation, and defined by 6 attributes. 

All in all though, they are seen as “ a ‘destination unto itself’. That is, the road must provide an exceptional traveling experience so recognized by travelers that they would make a drive along the highway a primary reason for their trip”

In just that consideration alone, it’s easy to see why so many of our roads are scenic, even just to ourselves. 

It’s also easy to see ourselves out on those roads, cruising and enjoying what’s around us. 

What may not be the easiest to see? 

When wildlife jumps out in front of you, quickly and unexpectedly. 

How do you avoid turning your peaceful drive into an animal vehicle collision? 

Avoiding an Animal Vehicle Collision:

Stay Alert, Always 

First things first, keep your eyes peeled and your wits about you. Wildlife doesn’t use crosswalks, after all! Pay extra attention when you’re driving in rural or wooded areas where animals are more likely to show up.

It’s beneficial to not only know where you are looking but when you are looking as well. 

Time Matters: 

On that note, did you know that most animal vehicle collisions happen during dawn and dusk? That’s when these creatures are most active. So, if you can, try to plan your drives during the day or night when visibility is better.

Just remember: though you should always be alert and aware, with your eyes on the road and on its edges, it is worth knowing that most animal vehicle collisions happen at these times

There is even a noted increase of road crossings during full moons as well, as the movement periods between dusk and dawn are touched with that added illumination during the brighter moon phases, giving an optimal time of preferred movement hours and added light.

All of this isnt to say an animal vehicle collision may not happen during daylight hours, its simply to say that only 20% of these collisions happen during the day.

animal vehicle collision risk
Mind the Signs:

Those yellow, diamond-shaped signs with the picture of a deer? Yeah, they’re not just for decoration. When you see them, take them seriously. They’re a heads-up that you’re entering deer territory.

For these signs to be put up often begins with a request from a town where a wildlife collision has occurred. After this request is made, Fish and Game review the area to see if there is actual risk or if the initiating accident was just that– an odd, out-of-the-norm accident

Once put in place, the wildlife crossings and potential animal vehicle collisions don’t just disappear. 

That potential is just brought to awareness as to alert the driver of a specific hazard. 

Keep in mind, it is the driver’s responsibility– it’s not like the deer have yellow signs, warning them of humans and vehicles in the area. 

Slow Down, Buddy: 

If you spot a deer on the road or the roadside, slow down. Chances are, there are more of them nearby. Plus, going slower gives you more time to react if one decides to dart out in front of you.

Though there are wildlife experts that say traveling no faster than 55mph is ideal in active wildlife corridors, remember that is the high end of the suggested speed range. Going slower is safer as deer can move quickly, and change direction with seemingly no notice. 

It’s better to drive slowly through the beautiful areas to take in what’s around you, and double the effect of your gaze as you maintain your awareness. 

The slower you are traveling, the more time you have to stop, and the greater potential to avoid being added to the average of 1.5 million animal vehicle collisions that occur each year

animal vehicle collision
High Beams When Safe: 

When you’re driving at night and there’s no oncoming traffic, flick on your high beams. 

The emphasis on this guideline is to use them when safe

The Department of Transportation notes that 85% of drivers misuse their high beams at some point

In any case, misuse of high beams can cause an increase in road rage, misjudging distance, and even diminishing your own visibility

Clearly these effects are detrimental to a safe driving experience in any situation, but can also double down on the intensity of heightened risks when taking into account the dangers of animal vehicle collisions.

Proper use of high beams can help you spot animals from a greater distance. But remember, if another car’s coming at you, be courteous and switch back to low beams.

Don’t Swerve Unnecessarily: 

If a deer or another animal suddenly appears in front of you, don’t swerve all over the road like you’re in an action movie. 

In that split second decision, if you do swerve, you may risk hitting a tree, another vehicle, or inflicting property damage to nearby structures. 

Although having an animal vehicle collision is not seen as an at-fault accident, in the case of swerving and triggering subsequent damages, there is a risk of the accident being deemed at-fault. These at-fault accidents cause an average annual increase of premiums but $840

Slamming on your brakes can create a secondary danger if you are being followed by another vehicle. Stopping short, or quickly without a clear visual indication for the car behind you– which is often the case in animal vehicle collisions when an animal jumps out in front of the vehicle, or if the driving conditions are dark– can cause a separate collision. The goal clearly is to avoid all driving behaviors that put you or other drivers at risk. 

Hitting a tree or another car is worse than hitting the animal. Brake as safely as possible, and if you must hit it, aim for the rear end, not the head.

animal vehicle collision
Buckle Up: 

Always, always wear your seatbelt. It won’t prevent a collision, but it can save your life if one does happen.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that using lap and shoulder seat belts reduces the risk of occupant deaths in front seat passenger cars and light trucks by 45% – 60% 

With all the uncertainty around the potential of an animal vehicle collision, there are the steps that can be taken to keep you safe. Wearing your seatbelt is a tried and true habit to always engage with.

Stay Sober: 

This one’s a no-brainer!

In all of the above guided suggestions, we are operating on the belief that you are a responsible driver who is in the right mind to be driving in the first place. 

If you are not sober, you should not be behind the wheel. Think of all the times you have celebrated something with friends or family, gone out drinking, and gotten to a point where you have to keep one eye closed just for everything around you to come back into focus. If you can’t fully see the chair in front of you, how would you be able to best gauge the wildlife that may suddenly jump in front of your vehicle? 

If you’re drinking, you’re not driving. 

Though the dangers may be real, there are steps you can take

to ensure your trip out on those beautiful and scenic roads is a safe one.


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