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Oh Deer, Fall Driving Tips

Did you know that deer collisions account for more than one-third of all animal-related accidents in the United States? The most common type of accident is when a car hits a deer, and these types of accidents are especially prevalent during hunting season. If you live in an area with high deer populations or drive through areas where there may be animals on the side of the road (especially at night), it’s important to keep your eyes peeled and stay alert.  In this post we’ll go over some tips to help drivers avoid hitting a deer!

Every year in Missouri, there are about 3,500 deer hit by cars.  Drivers should be on the lookout for deer, as they are most active October through December during mating season.  They are most actively on the move during dawn and dusk.  During these times, the deer’s wide eyes take in plenty of light to see their paths to their favorite food sources, at a point when most predators are struggling to see clearly.

Most deer are spooked by the sounds of traffic and become confused as to which way to run.  They may dart out in front of cars, stand still in the road, and even run towards moving vehicles when they mean to run away from them.  The biggest reason deer jump in front of cards is because they are scared.

To avoid hitting a deer . . .

  • Always be cautious and alert. Animals may appear suddenly and swerving to avoid them can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles resulting in serious injury or death.
  • Watch for the rest of the gang. Deer are pack animals, and rarely travel alone.  Slow down and keep an eye out for more deer darting across the road.
  • Deer are most active at dusk and dawn: periods when your vision is most compromised. Slow down and stay alert.
  • Use your high beam headlights if driving at night (when there is no oncoming traffic). The higher light will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway. Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.  Brake firmly but stay in your lane when you notice a deer in or near your bath.
  • Stay center. On a multi-lane road, the center lane is your safest bet for avoiding a deer collision.  This gives deer plenty of space; and in case your vehicle does startle them, it gives you time to react.
  • Brake! Do not swerve!  If you see a deer, brake firmly and calmly, and stay in your lane.  Swerving can make you lose control of your vehicle and turn a bad situation much worse.
  • Honk! Some experts recommend that one long blast of the horn will scare deer out of the road.  Do not rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer – studies have shown them to be largely ineffective at minimizing accidents.


What to do if you hit a deer . . .

If the above tips fail, (and it does happen to the best of drivers), you should take the following steps.

  • Pull to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Turn on your hazard lights and remain in the vehicle until you are sure it is safe.
  • Call emergency services if injuries are involved or the local police for property damage.
  • Stay away from the deer. If it is still alive, it could be confused, injured and dangerous if approached. When contacting the authorities, let them know if the deer is in a dangerous spot on the road so that it can be removed.
  • Contact your insurance company to report any damage to your vehicle.


Here are the answers to a few common questions:

  • Do you have to call the police if you hit a deer in Missouri? Most cases, yes.  But not always necessary.
  • Does hitting a deer raise your insurance? Your auto insurance rates should not increase after a deer encounter. This is because filing for comprehensive damage, which has been seen most often when hitting an animal.
  • Can you keep the deer you hit with your car? Missouri law does allow an individual who has struck and killed a deer with their vehicle to claim the deer carcass if written authorization to posses the deer is granted by a Missouri Department of Conversation agent.


Remember:  Stay buckled, avoid swerving, heed deer crossing signs, and if you do see a deer, slow down without slamming the brakes.

Your family will be safe on the road this fall with these tips for avoiding accidents involving deer!

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