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How to Avoid Run-ins With Deer

Christina Talcott

AAA Mid-Atlantic recently released a statement about the dangers of hitting deer on the highway during the animal's mating season. I'll admit, the e-mail caught my eye with its subject line: "A Deer and Present Danger.".

The numbers of deer-on-highway kills have been decreasing since they peaked at 2,129 in Montgomery County in 2002; only 1,867 incidents were reported last year.

The decrease seems like a great thing, both for deer and drivers, but statistics mean nothing if you're the one plowing into a deer on the road.

AAA Mid-Atlantic offers tips on avoiding a deer-car crash:

* Slow down and brake to avoid hitting a deer. Do not swerve. Swerving may cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle, thus increasing the chance of personal injury or death.

* To avoid injuries, brake until the last fraction of a second before impact, and then let off your brakes. This will cause the front end of your car to rise, increasing the odds that the struck deer will pass underneath your car, instead of being launched into your windshield and seriously injuring you or your passengers.

* Throughout the year, increase your awareness for deer in the early morning and late afternoon. Deer commonly move between daytime resting areas to evening feeding locations. During the breeding season, pay particular attention if driving during nighttime hours.

* Be more alert and slow down in areas where deer-crossing highway signs are posted. These warning signs indicate locations of frequent deer crossings.

* A deer standing near the road may suddenly leap in front of a moving vehicle. Slow down and sound your horn to scare the deer away from the road.

* If you see a deer crossing the road ahead, slow down and scan for more deer. Deer travel in groups; others may be nearby, but out of view.

Anyone have other advice to add about avoiding deer collisions? And, since this is the Travel section, anyone have advice about not hitting critters while on the road, like moose, monkeys or macaws?

By Christina Talcott |  October 23, 2008; 9:44 AM ET  | Category:  Christina Talcott
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For the deer...I have always had deer whistles on my cars and have never hit a deer. This may be because I don't live out in the country or it may be because of the deer whistles. The verdict is still out. But still...they are a tiny little 5 dollar safety net that makes me feel better when I occasionally find myself out cruising a country road at dusk.

Now for the monkeys...when we were in India, we found that throwing cashews on the side of the road fixed the little "monkey in the road" problem that we encountered. But you gotta be fast! Throw the cashews and then jump in the car before they finish eating and come back up onto the road. Seriously. It worked.

Posted by: Audashs | October 23, 2008 11:00 AM

You don't need to travel in the suburbs to encounter deer. 34th Street/Reno can be a popular sighting area, as the deer work they way out from Rock Creek Park. One Saturday we noticed two deer "hanging out" near the Vatican Embassy -- and this was mid-day.

Posted by: Spin | October 23, 2008 11:28 AM

I always use my fog lights and keep a watch out for little pairs or glowing golden eyes.

Posted by: binpa | October 23, 2008 11:36 AM

"* To avoid injuries, brake until the last fraction of a second before impact, and then let off your brakes. This will cause the front end of your car to rise, increasing the odds that the struck deer will pass underneath your car, instead of being launched into your windshield and seriously injuring you or your passengers."

Um, sure - because most deer impacts don't happen inside seconds - or fractions thereof - anyway. That has got to be the dumbest thing I've ever heard.

It's not so much that you hit a deer, it's that it jumps out in front of your car and you have to avoid it. That's advice if you're trying to hunt deer with your car!

Posted by: Chasmosaur | October 23, 2008 11:38 AM

Pay attention and don't drive too fast for the road. If you take a country-road blind hill or curve too fast, guaranteed there'll be a deer (or cow, or skunk) in the road on the other side. This goes double after dark or in early-morning fog.

And Chasmosaur, I'm with you on your point: about the only way to avoid having a deer hood-ornament if you hit one is to drive a 4WD with lots of ground clearance and a big square grille. Anything else is just going to take out the poor thing's legs and scoop it onto your hood. If you have a reaction time fast enough to brake and then release, your other car is probably an F1.

Posted by: BxNY | October 23, 2008 1:02 PM

Careful, if you mount those deer whistles backwards, they suck the deer right in front of your car!

My brother has deer whistles on his car on the Eastern Shore, that didn't stop him from catching one on the hood. I don't think they are effective.

Posted by: Billy11 | October 23, 2008 3:21 PM

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