Oh, Deer! Sharing the Road with Critters

October 25, 2017

It may not be the most pleasant of topics, but it’s an important one to discuss.

(See the infographic instead)

The Washington State Department of Transportation reports nearly 3500 deer/elk-vehicle collisions annually – and almost half of those occur in October and November. Not only does it often result in the loss of the animal’s life, but it can also cause significant damage to vehicles and injury to driver and passengers. The best thing we can do is remain vigilant and prevent a collision, which is easier with these safety tips:

  • Deer are┬ámost active at dawn and dusk. Unfortunately, this is also when visibility tends to be the worst. Use your headlights even when it’s not “dark,” and on rural roads, use your brights; you’ll see the deer’s reflective eyes before you’d see the deer itself.
  • If you see one deer, slow down and keep an eye out for more. Deer are pack animals and, especially during fall and winter, rarely travel alone. Where there is one, there are likely more!
  • Avoid distractions like food/drink, cell phone (always!), or anything that takes your eyes off the road – the sooner you notice a deer, the easier it is to avoid it.
  • Always wear a seat belt!
  • Pay attention to what other drivers are doing. If the car in front of you brakes unexpectedly, they may see a critter that you don’t yet see. Proceed with caution and assess the situation before pulling around to pass them!
  • In the case that you do see a deer or other animal in the roadway, try a single solid blast of your car horn to spook it out of the way.

What happens if a collision is inevitable?

  • Do NOT swerve out of your lane! This is how the majority of severe driver/passenger injuries and fatalities occur – when you end up in an oncoming traffic lane or in a ditch. Keep both hands on the wheel and do your best to remain on your side of the road.
  • Brake firmly, but do not slam the brakes. You don’t want to lose control of the vehicle.
  • An urban myth says that you will fare better if you accelerate into the collision instead of slowing. This has been proven false!

After a collision:

  • Immediately move your vehicle to a safe place and turn on your hazard lights.
  • If there is serious damage to your vehicle or if anyone in the vehicle is injured, call 911. If not, call the non-emergency line at the Sheriff’s office (378-4151) to report the accident. This report will also come in handy if/when you file an insurance claim.
  • If it’s safe to do so, document damage to your vehicle. Take pictures of the vehicle and the roadway, and ensure that your vehicle is still safe to drive.
  • Don’t attempt to move the animal out of the roadway unless you are certain it is deceased. If it’s alive and injured, call Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation Center at 378-5000.