“Oh, deer!” It’s that time of year to pay extra attention on Ohio’s roadways
Halloween is a scary season indeed, but for some Ohio drivers there’s a sight more startling even than goblins and ghouls this time of year: a sudden encounter with a deer in the middle of a dark roadway. During October and November, the chances of seeing deer on or near our roads increase as the deer become more active and enter the peak of their breeding season.
Fortunately, most roadside encounters end without a collision, when the deer runs for safer turf. But with more than 12 million registered vehicles in Ohio, accidents are bound to happen, and drivers should be alert to that possibility.
Because deer are inclined to be active during low-light hours, a majority of deer-vehicle accidents occur at dusk and dawn as we commute to and from work. More than half of these vehicle accidents take place between 5 p.m. and midnight and another 20 percent happen between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.
It’s no accident, however, that this time of year is also one of Ohio’s most popular hunting seasons. From early October through late January, thousands of avid outdoorsmen and women take to the fields across the state in pursuit of white-tailed deer. In fact, Ohio deer hunters play an important role in keeping these roadway accidents from being more common.
The heaviest densities of white-tailed deer are in east-central and southeastern counties, but they also are found in high numbers in most of Ohio’s suburban areas, where hunting is limited.
While most Ohioans will not find themselves involved in such accidents, there is no way to prevent every deer-vehicle collision. As you drive Ohio’s roadways this fall, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:
- If you see a deer in the road, expect more deer to be nearby. Deer commonly travel in groups, so the probability is high that other deer will be in front of or behind the one you’ve seen.
- Flash your lights or honk your horn to frighten deer away from the side of the road.
- Stay alert. Deer can be very unpredictable, especially when they are frightened.
- Be on the lookout for deer crossing signs and slow down. Be aware of your surroundings, just because you don’t see a deer crossing sign posted, it doesn’t mean deer won’t unexpectedly appear.
- Don’t swerve your vehicle to avoid hitting a deer. If you can’t avoid the accident, then just hit the deer while maintaining control of your vehicle. Some experts say that if such a collision is inevitable, you should avoid braking at impact so that the deer may pass underneath your car as opposed to hitting the windshield.
- When you encounter deer along the roadside, turn on your emergency lights to let other motorists know about the potential danger.
- Don’t rely on hood-mounted deer whistles and other devices to scare away deer. Wildlife biologists have not found any conclusive evidence that these type of devices work.
- Always wear your seat belt.
If you are one of the unlucky ones to hit a deer this fall, be sure and report the accident within 24 hours to local law enforcement officials or the Ohio State Highway Patrol. And, since you’ll most likely have to pay an auto insurance deductible, consider making lemonade out of lemons by claiming the deer meat for you and your family.