It is about that time of year again. Time to start thinking about, and preparing for DVC season, or DVA season as it is also referred to.
I never really gave DVCs much thought until a recent incident brought the issue up close and personal, as they say.
I was heading home from the airport very late one night after returning from a business trip. I was driving along a familiar rural two-lane road when I almost became a DVC (deer-vehicle collision) statistic.
All of a sudden from out of nowhere a large deer bounded onto the roadway from a corn field on my right and froze.
I immediately slowed down and hit the horn, but the deer stayed put.
Realizing I wasn’t going to be able to stop in time, some advice I received from a veteran trucker when I first got into trucking many years ago popped into my mind: “Aim for the deer. They’ll run off, but you won’t know which way.”
Although difficult to do, I steered for the deer, mentally guessing it would run back the way it had come. Wrong. It ran across the road.
Thankfully, my first deer-vehicle encounter ended safely.
Being the inquisitive type, I wondered how prevalent deer-vehicle accidents (DVA) are. Upon investigation I learned they are a significant safety issue, and a very costly one.
Studies by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show that three out of four vehicle-animal collisions involve deer. Among the top 10 states for fatalities from animal-vehicle crashes are Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The Insurance Information Institute estimates there are some 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the U.S., causing more than 150 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries and more than $3.6 billion in vehicle damage. That does not include the costs of unscheduled vehicle downtime and loss of fleet and shop productivity.
The majority of deer-vehicle collisions occur between the months of October and December. That is when deer are most active because it is their migration and mating season.
More accidents occur during the night, or anytime between dusk and dawn, because deer are nocturnal animals and spend most of their time foraging during these periods.
Safety officials say the most effective way to avoid deer-vehicle collisions is through attentive driving behavior. They note that driver reaction usually dictates the severity of such accidents.
Safety officials recommend a number of precautions to keep drivers safe and minimize the chances of colliding with a deer when driving:
Heed “deer crossing” signs. Decrease speed in these areas and drive with extra caution. The sooner a deer is seen on or approaching a roadway, the better the chance of avoiding a crash.
Be especially watchful in areas near woods, farmlands, water and areas known to have a large deer population. When driving through these areas keep eyes moving and continually glance to both sides of the road.
Do not rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer as these devices have not proven effective.
At night, use high-beam headlights to better illuminate the edges of the road where deer may linger. Look for the reflection of light in a deer’s eyes. If you see eyes reflected in your headlights, slow down immediately.
Headlights tend to hypnotize deer when a vehicle approaches. If a deer is spotted, be alert, slow down quickly and sound the horn to try and scare it away.
Keep in mind that if one deer is spotted, more are usually nearby. Deer often travel in groups and in a single file line.
Deer are unpredictable in their movements, especially when confronted with glaring headlights, blaring horns and moving vehicles. Do not assume to know which way a deer will move.
If a collision with a deer seems inevitable, brake firmly and attempt to stop. Do not swerve to avoid the deer as vehicle control may be lost, increasing the risk of injury due to hitting another vehicle or a fixed object like a tree.
If a deer is struck, stay away from it. It may just be stunned and could become very aggressive if aroused. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. Report the accident to the Game Commission or local law enforcement.
Be sure to disseminate this information to your staff, drivers and all other employees to help them avoid a DVC.