There's so much to think about when driving: surrounding cars, your speed, pedestrians, reckless drivers. It hardly seems fair that we have to worry about animals too. But it's a danger we can't ignore. There are about 1.5 million animal-car accidents each year that cause 10,000 injuries, 150 deaths, and an average of $2,500 in property damage.
There's no silver bullet to keep large animals like deer, elk, and moose off highways and roads. Some drivers insist that deer whistles work, though the Information Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says no scientific evidence supports that claim. Studies and field tests show that roadside reflectors do reduce crash frequency somewhat, but as of now there's no foolproof method to keep animals off our roads.
What May Help
Stay alert. Pay attention to "deer crossing" signs. Scan down the road and off to each side. Be especially watchful in areas near woods and water. If you see one deer, there are probably several others nearby.
Be especially vigilant during peak season. Though collisions can happen any time of year, fall is peak time for deer-car crashes because it's both hunting and mating seasons, forcing deer to roam outside their normal territory.
Use headlights smartly. At night, use high-beams when possible to illuminate the road's edges. If you see a deer far ahead, flick the brights on and off multiple times: Deer tend to fixate on headlights, so flashing them may cause the animal to scurry away.
Watch out at mealtime. Pay particular attention at dusk and dawn, when these animals usually venture out to eat.
Brake as necessary. If you think you have time to avoid hitting the animal, reduce speed, tap the brakes to warn drivers behind you, and sound your horn. If there's no vehicle close behind you, brake hard.
Don't swerve. If a collision seems inevitable, don't veer off to avoid the animal. Your risk of injury may be greater if you do. Maintain control of the vehicle. Report the accident to the police and your insurance company.
Always obey speed limits and wear seat belts.
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