The risk of hitting a deer is a concern for motorists throughout much of the eastern and central United States, where deer populations are highest. Car accidents involving deer can be quite serious. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the annual number of deaths from hitting deer has been steadily increasing. In 2007, the number of reported fatalities was up to 223. Thousands more are injured every year.
Fortunately, if you know how to react when a deer darts in front of your vehicle, you can drastically reduce the odds of serious injury and even minimize damage. Here are a few tips on how to hit a deer and live to tell about it.
Resist the urge to swerve.
When a deer suddenly appears in the path of your vehicle, your first instinct will be to swerve to miss it. No matter what, do not do this! Swerving to miss a deer is a bigger cause of death than actually hitting a deer. You could swerve into oncoming traffic, a tree, or the ditch. You could even roll your car. The best thing to do is keep the steering wheel completely straight.
Slow down, but safely.
Hit the brakes, but not so hard that you lose control. Also, be aware of the traffic to your rear. If the vehicle behind you is likely to hit you if you suddenly slow way down, it’s better to just hit the deer. Take into consideration that a vehicle such as a semi-truck needs more distance to stop than a smaller car, and it will do considerably more damage upon impact.
I thought I was supposed to speed up to hit a deer?
You may have heard that you’re actually supposed to speed up to hit a deer. This is mostly inaccurate. If at all possible, you should reduce the speed with which you will hit the deer. This will reduce the amount of damage and the likelihood of injury, and it may be possible to avoid hitting the deer altogether if you can slow down enough.
So why do people say you should speed up to hit deer? The idea is that the acceleration will lift the front end of your car, decreasing the chances that the deer will hit your windshield and cause injury. This may work somewhat with some cars, but in general it’s probably not going to do that much good. If your reflexes are quick enough and you have enough time, you may want to hit the accelerator (or at least release the brakes) just before impact, but your main priority should be to reduce your speed as much as possible by the time you hit the deer.
What to do after hitting a deer:
If you can safely pull your car to the side of the road, then do so. Turn on your hazard lights. If the deer is still in the road, be sure that you are a safe distance away in case another car swerves to miss it. You don’t want to be in the way.
If you have the means, then you should call 911. If you’re hurt, let the operator know, and they will send help. If you’re not hurt, be sure to say so, but ask them to send a police officer so that you can file a report. This will be helpful for insurance purposes. Also, the officer will know the proper authorities to contact about the deer.
It’s best to stay in your vehicle until the police arrive. If you absolutely must get out to assess the damage, be sure to get out on the side of the car that faces away from the road, and don’t step into the road. This will protect you from traffic and help prevent accidents.
Whatever you do after hitting a deer, don’t approach it. It may appear to be dead, but it might just be in shock. If you come near, the deer could kick or attack and seriously injure you. If it needs to be put out of its misery, the police officer will know how to take care of it.
“Collisions with deer and other animals spike in November; fatal crashes up 50% since 2000”. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
Kittner, Gena. “Just ask us: What you should do if you hit a deer”. Madison.com.