Fall brings cool air, beautiful autumn colours and more importantly wildlife onto Ontario’s roads – and a need for drivers to be extra cautious. October to January is a peak time for vehicle collisions with wildlife, and autumn is the most dangerous time. Collisions with wild animals can result in serious vehicle damage, personal injury, or even death.
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, so motorists should be especially cautious driving between the hours of 5 and 8 a.m and 5 and 10 p.m., when deer are likely to be out feeding. Not coincidentally, this is also a peak driving and low-visibility time for motorists. Studies show that deer tend to roam more freely (and less cautiously) during breeding season as they cast about looking for mates. This also the start of hunting season leaving experts to believe that the combination of mating and hunting seasons has given the month its reputation as a deadly time of year for deer. Spooked deer fleeing hunters may unintentionally end up on roadways or in more developed areas as a result of being scared out of the woods.
Hopefully, you’ve never experienced that heart-stopping moment when a deer suddenly leaps in front of your vehicle, but if it ever does, what do you do? Here are some suggestions in helping to prevent it from happening to you.
Some helpful tips to hopefully keep you safe
Be especially attentive during peak deer hours. From sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before and after sunrise are the highest risk times for deer-vehicle collisions
Use extra caution when driving through deer-crossing zones. Also be especially careful in places known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland.
Know that deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, then always expect there to be more.
Use 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 path. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in car-deer crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
Do not rely on deer-deterring devices. Deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.
If your vehicle strikes a deer, do not touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. The best procedure is to get your car off the road, if possible, and call the police.
In the event a deer damages your car – contact the police and your insurance company.
If, however, it appears impossible to avoid the deer, remember to aim for the spot the animal is coming from, not where it is going. Look where you want to go, not at the animal. Drivers tend to steer where you look – if you are looking at the animal, that is where the vehicle tends to go. Brake firmly and quickly, then look, and steer in the direction you wish to go.
So, when you’re driving the highways this fall, admiring the glorious foliage of our beautiful landscape, keep an eye out for our furry friends. Be sure to help educate friends, family, and colleagues – especially new and younger drivers – to the dangers of collisions with wildlife, and enjoy safe travels!