U.S. Heading Into Peak Deer Collision Season: What to Know

by Emily Morgan

Agencies are warning drivers to be on the lookout for deer as the animal’s mating season begins.

According to reports, it’s estimated that American motorists have about a 1 in 116 chance of hitting an animal. Experts also say collisions with deer make up a large percentage of the crashes from late fall through early winter.

“What’s happening is the onset of the breeding season,” said Clint McCoy, a deer biologist with the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, deer often collide with vehicles during the mating process. In addition, their heightened energy leads to their unpredictable activity and wandering onto roads.

Since 2016, the Ohio State Highway Patrol has reported more than 100,000 deer-related incidents on state roadways. The department also said that nearly half of those accidents happened during the mating season.

Moreover, seer experts add that the decrease in the amount of daylight North America sees with daylight savings helps indicate when the mating season starts.

“The animals have a special gland that perceives the amount of light in a given day. And as the amount of light decreases, as we get into fall, the deer begin secreting hormones. The hormones eventually tell them it’s time to breed,” McCoy said.

Daylight across North America will continue to decrease through what’s known as the winter solstice, occurring on December 21.

Tips on driving safe during deer mating season

As for avoiding car crashes with deer, here are some tips. Firstly, always drive carefully, especially in marked deer-crossing zones and along roads surrounded by farms or forests. Secondly, be especially alert during dawn and dusk, when deer are most active. The animals tend to be highly active between 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.

In addition, experts recommend using your high beams for nighttime driving. Your high beams will better show you the deer’s eyes on or near the road.

It’s also a good idea to get familiar with deer behavior. For example, deer typically travel in packs and single-file. Meaning if you see one deer, there’s probably more following behind.

While this should go without saying, we must mention that you should always wear your seat belt. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that of the 23,824 people killed in car crashes in 2020, 51 percent were not wearing seat belts. This figure marks a four percent increase from 2019. Seat belts saved an estimated 14,955 lives.

However, if a crash is inevitable with a deer, there are things you can do to limit the impact. First, Don’t swerve into another lane or off the road. Then, brake while holding onto the steering wheel, all while remaining calm.

Finally, move the vehicle to a controlled stop, call the police, and call your insurance agent to report the accident.