How to Avoid a Deer Collision

avoid deer collision

“Deer in the headlights” is a popular idiom for good reason. There are as many as 2 million collisions between cars and animals every year in the United States, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The vast majority involve deer.

Making matters worse, deer populations are growing at the same time animal habitats are being encroached and displaced by urban development. This not only increases the prevalence of deer collisions, but also means they can occur just about anywhere, including cities and suburbs.

The chances of coming across a deer while driving only increases in the fall, which coincides with deer hunting season. During these months, the animals are often on the move and inevitably wind up crossing roadways. Before you head out for your annual fall foliage road trips, study up on these tips to ensure you, your family and the wildlife stay safe.

Check for Signs

Maybe the most obvious but undoubtedly most helpful step is to be on the lookout for deer crossing signs. These are your primary reminders to be on alert, use caution and, if necessary, reduce your speed.

Deer crossing signs, depicted with a leaping stag, are placed by local towns and highway departments in areas known for high deer activity and/or where deer collisions have occurred in the past. They’re most often found in heavily wooded areas like parks and forests, as well as near water.

Buying a New Car

Tips and tricks to get you through every step of buying a new car, whatever “new” means to you.

Download Now!

Consider the Time of Day

While we can never predict when a deer will jump out onto the road, we do know the time of day it’s most likely to happen. The animals are most active when they are grazing, which occurs during dawn and dusk. It’s also worth noting that because deer thrive during these hours, their eyes are well-adjusted to the dark, causing bright car headlights to temporarily blind them and stun them in place.

Sunrise and sunset are also particularly difficult times of day to drive because the road may be dark, or the sun’s glare could be in your eyes.

It’s crucial to be particularly vigilant when you’re driving through deer country around these times. If possible, plan your travels for a different time of day.

avoid deer collision

Stop, Don’t Swerve

If a deer is in the road in front of your vehicle, you may be tempted to swerve around it. This, however, could make the situation much worse. Deer will usually move when they see a car coming, so swerving into another lane might just put you right back into the animal’s path. Additionally, you’ll increase the likelihood of losing control of your vehicle or crashing into another car.

Use Your Horn if You Must

Deer don’t want to see you any more than you want to see them. In fact, most large forest animals are actually quite timid and will run off at the first sight of a human. However, they may get too scared to jolt and instead freeze in the middle of the road. When this happens, bring your car to a stop and give the animal a moment to move. If this doesn’t work, flick your headlights on and off a few times. Only use your car horn (in short bursts) as a last resort. The noise may cause a deer to get aggressive.

Watch for Herds

You’re driving down the highway when you spot a deer gallop across the road 100 feet down the road. You’ve avoided a potential collision and now you’re in the clear, right? Not so fast. Deer seldom travel alone. If you see one, there will almost always be others nearby. Once a deer crosses, check both sides of the roadway to make sure another one isn’t following.

Get more car safety tips. 


Sign up and receive updates for all of the latest articles on automotive, travel, money, lifestyle and so much more!

37 Thoughts on “How to Avoid a Deer Collision

  1. Maybe it’s my age but I’ve discovered that swiveling my sun visors down to block out the sky when driving at dusk makes vision of the roadway much better. Your pupils get smaller with the light of the sky thus reducing your vision straight ahead. You can see the difference instantly if you experiment.

  2. I have had deer whistles on my cars for at least 20 years traveling back and forth to the mountains I have never hit a deer. I have watched them turn around and also stop dead in their tracks. Great invention. Less than $10.00

  3. hunters do NOT cause deer to run into the road ! their isn’t any state that allows hunting near roads plus hunting area are NOT set up near roads…during the fall,mateing season cause male deers to chase the does..not hunters..the whistles don’t work and mostly deer are on the side of the road watching you pass by as they eat the small vegetation(which grows there because their isn’t any trees at edge of road) at side of roads not stopping for the whistles…very rarely can some organization come in time to save an injured deer if they did come there isn’t anything they can do except put it down which police usually do..they do NOT dig through snow looking for salt ! they are looking for grasses .

    1. I am not a hunter and I really like deer and other wildlife. You are right that the mating season makes the deer move more. Deer hunting is not a chase sport (or the deer would win the chase). The hunter hides and waits, and not in the middle of the roads.
      Unfortunately deer can LEAP into the middle of the road from far off the shoulder as they run sometimes and there isn’t time to react. Also, if they happen to just trot across the road they may do a loop turn-around and cross back again yards further down. They don’t just move in straight lines, so I’ve been told to not assume they won’t cross back.
      I will look into the whistle. Maybe installing two is even better than one?

Leave A Comment

Comments are subject to moderation and may or may not be published at the editor’s discretion. Only comments that are relevant to the article and add value to the Your AAA community will be considered. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.