Motorists are urged to drive carefully at this time of year when New Jersey’s deer are particularly active and likely to be darting into roadways.
Deer mating season can be a dangerous time for drivers, deer and car hoods. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 1.6 million deer-vehicle collisions occur each year, resulting in 200 fatalities, tens of thousands of injuries and over $3.6 billion in vehicle damage. Being prepared can help prevent you from adding to these statistics.
Autumn is breeding season for white-tailed deer, and they are on the move. In the fall, deer population numbers are at a peak. Consequently, the potential for drivers to encounter them on the roadways is greatly increased. Deer can be seen crossing roadways at any time of day, but typically are most active at dawn and dusk; the same hours most commuters are traveling to and from work. Motorists can minimize the risk of accidents with deer by being alert and slowing down.
Motorists should to take the following precautions:
- First, look for the road signs. The yellow diamonds with the deer on it are placed in high-traffic areas for deer. Drive with caution when traveling through areas known to have large deer populations, particularly along sections of roadways posted as deer crossings.
- Slow down when you see deer on the roadside, and be alert for sudden movement. Remember that deer move in groups, so if you see one deer crossing the road, others might follow.
- Use high beams after dark when there is no oncoming traffic. High beams illuminate the eyes of deer on or near a roadway, giving motorists more time to react.
- Always wear a seat belt as required by state law, and drive at a safe speed for road and weather conditions.
- Do not swerve if it appears you are going to hit a deer. Brake firmly, and stay in your lane. Motorists who swerve to avoid deer increase the likelihood of colliding with oncoming traffic or roadside obstacles. Reminder - 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.
- Keep in mind that deer are unpredictable. They may stop in the middle of the road while crossing or turn around and return to the roadside. If a deer remains in the road, do not try to go around it. Slow down and brake firmly but stay in your lane when you notice a deer in or near your path. Blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away. Stop and wait until the road is clear.
- If your vehicle strikes a deer, DO NOT touch the animal. Stay away from the deer. If it is still alive, it could be confused, injured and dangerous if approached. A frightened and wounded deer could use its powerful legs, sharp hooves and antlers to harm you, or further injure itself.
- Move your vehicle to a safe place, preferably off the roadway or pull over to the side of the road, and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle wait until it’s safe to do so and stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles.
- Call emergency services (911) if injuries are involved. Please report any deer-vehicle collisions to a local law enforcement agency immediately. When contacting the authorities, let them know if the deer is in a dangerous spot on the road so that it can be removed.