Best Ways You Can Avoid Deer When Driving
Remember the old saying by Benjamin Franklin, which goes something like this: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Clearly, it’s better to avoid a potentially harmful situation altogether instead of having to then fix things after an accident. Not to mention, it will save a lot of time, money, and headaches later on. Obviously, you can’t avoid every accident, but it pays to consider these things ahead of time. If you drive at night a lot due to work schedules or live in a remote area, it’s likely you see deer on the side of the road fairly often. Here are some of the best ways you can avoid deer when driving, so you can spend your hard-earned money on fun things instead of costly vehicle repairs.
Deer Collision Statistics
Where you live (and drive) obviously has a large influence on whether you need to avoid deer when driving on a regular basis or if it’s almost impossible to see a deer. If you primarily live and work in a large urban area, it’s unlikely you will ever hit a deer with your vehicle (or even see a deer). But if you live in a more remote area with woodlands, farm fields, and natural areas, you probably see deer almost daily, and likely even have a grille guard installed on your vehicle.
According to information from State Farm® (which tracks this information across the country for insurance purposes), between July 2020 and June 2021, there was an average 1 in 109 chance that a U.S. driver would have a collision with an animal. According to these statistics, you have a much higher chance of hitting a deer if you live in West Virginia (1 in 37), Montana (1 in 39), South Dakota (1 in 48), Michigan (1 in 54), or Pennsylvania (1 in 54). Meanwhile, according to the Insurance Information Institute, the odds of hitting an animal with a vehicle in Washington, D.C. are only 1 in 569. See the difference between these areas? The highest chances of collisions were in states with abundant natural areas, while the lowest was in one of the most developed and populated areas: our nation’s capital.
Importantly, statistics from these insurance claims also show that you have a much higher chance of hitting a large animal with your vehicle in the following months (from highest): November, October, and December. When you’re talking about deer collisions, this makes a lot of sense. Starting in October, members of the deer family (e.g., whitetails, mule deer, elk, moose) start to enter their breeding season, referred to as the rut. During the rut, males spend most of their time traveling looking for a receptive mate. That unfortunately means they cross roads a lot more in the fall than any other time of the year, and puts you at an increased risk of hitting them.
Best Ways to Avoid Deer When Driving
Knowing some of the facts above, you probably already have some ideas on how to avoid deer when driving, depending on your location and the time of year. But here are some other things you should consider.
Defensive Driving for Deer
This is one of the most basic things you can do to avoid deer when driving, and honestly, you should always drive with these principles in mind anyway. Defensive driving essentially means you’re always paying attention and trying to avoid or minimize any harmful external things (i.e., other drivers, weather, and deer) that are out of your control. Here are a few defensive driving actions you can take to avoid deer when driving.
- Don’t hug the shoulder of the road. Deer are likely to hang out on the edge of the road, so try to keep some distance between your vehicle and the shoulder if possible, which will give you a little more reaction time if you see a deer. This isn’t always possible on 2-lane roads, but keep it in mind.
- Slow down. In general, you shouldn’t speed anyway. But when you’re approaching particularly dangerous areas that could funnel deer across the road (e.g., brushy road shoulders, areas between woodlands and farm fields, etc.), plan on slowing down a little and expect deer to cross at any time.
- Look for multiples. Deer often hang out together while feeding on roadsides, especially does and fawns. If you see one deer, expect that more could be lurking just out of view somewhere. That’s why it’s important to not get tunnel vision when you spot a deer – keep your eyes scanning to look for others.
- Use high beams (when possible). When it’s safe and legal to do, click your high beams on to spot deer further out. Your high beams have a much better chance of illuminating the roadside and catching the reflection in a deer’s eyes than your low beams do.
Don’t Drive at Dawn/Dusk
This can be a tough one to avoid if you have to drive to and from work or bring the kids to and from school, as these are typically the times you need to be on the road. But the bottom line is that deer are known as crepuscular animals, which means they are most active during the low-light periods of each day, including dawn (5 to 8 AM) and dusk (5 to 9 PM). Unfortunately, those are the times of the day when our vision is the worst at picking out objects. Deer will also travel a lot at night or feed along roadside during this time, when they can be tough to spot until you get closer. If there’s any way you can avoid driving at dawn or dusk, even just shifting schedules slightly, you should lower your chance of hitting a deer while driving.
Thermal Imaging to Avoid Deer
We’re a little biased on this, of course, but we believe one of the best ways to avoid deer when driving is to use thermal imaging. Basically, thermal cameras use infrared-based technology to capture the heat signature of any objects within view. So while deer have great camouflage (particularly at night), it’s no match for a thermal camera.
When you install a thermal camera on your vehicle, you can see the deer that are further out and hiding on the side of the road or waiting to cross until your vehicle approaches. In fact, you can see up to four times further with a thermal camera than with using average headlights. Better yet, it allows you to see through fog, rain, light brush, or grass that would hide a deer from your headlight beams. By seeing a deer from further out, you have time to react and slow down to avoid the collision. Whether you choose one of our NightRide Scout models or NightRide Pro models, you’ll be in good hands.
At the end of the day, avoiding a deer collision is obviously best for everyone. It’s not always possible, because deer are unpredictable animals and liable to just run into the side of your vehicle themselves. But any way you can minimize the chance, the better off you will be.