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October 30, 2013

How to Avoid Vehicular Collisions with Deer

Slow down and be aware—especially at dawn and dusk and in the fall

  • Travel speeds below 45 mph will reduce accidents involving deer. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Each year, there are roughly 1.5 million deer/vehicle collisions on U.S. roadways.

Fortunately, there are many humane and effective ways to reduce the number of collisions involving deer, ranging from increasing individual awareness and caution to implementing new technology and structures.

Public officials frequently attribute deer/vehicle collisions to increasing deer populations, while failing to consider the impact of humans on the landscape. We have created more roadways with more people driving on them, disrupted migration routes by roadways, and given rise to ever-shrinking wildlife habitat.

Additionally, frequent mowing of roadsides (which creates succulent plant growth), along with road-salt use in the winter, attract deer to roads.

Road design, road condition, and driving speeds are the factors that most strongly influence the number of deer/vehicle collisions. Bumpier, narrower roads with twists and turns, and slower travel speeds (under 45 mph) result in fewer collisions with wildlife.

Safe driving means giving wildlife a brake

Drive with deer in mind

  • Be vigilant. Watch from side to side as you drive, especially in areas of low visibility or where shrubs or grasses are near the road.
  • Watch for group behavior. Deer often travel in groups. If one deer crosses the road, slow down and watch for more to follow. Females travel together in winter, and fawns follow their mothers in spring and summer.
  • Be extra cautious in the fall, when bucks are on the move due to rutting and hunting seasons, and in the spring (May to June), when yearlings are seeking new territories. 
  • Be especially watchful at dusk and dawn, when deer tend to be more active.
  • Use your high beams at night to see farther ahead. Slow down and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges.
  • Try to drive straight, avoiding swerving around wildlife; rather, try to brake firmly and blow your horn. Animals are easily confused. If you swerve, deer may run into the vehicle rather than away from it. And swerving could mean driving into another vehicle or off the road into poles or fences.
  • Slow down!

Making roads safer

  • Enforce speed limits in areas with deer. The lower the speed, the fewer collisions with deer.
  • Erect fences. One of the most successful techniques for alleviating deer/vehicle collisions is to use fencing to prevent deer from crossing roads.
  • Install devices that warn deer of oncoming cars.
    • Streiter Lite® reflectors, which reflect headlights to create an optical illusion of a fence and alert deer to oncoming vehicles, have been reported to reduce deer/vehicle collisions by 60 to 100 percent.
    • Deer Deter devices alert deer to oncoming vehicles by combining a strobe light effect with ultrasonic high-pitched sounds.
  • Mount motion-activated flashing lights on deer-crossing signs or posts to warn motorists about the presence of deer.
  • Construct green bridges or wildlife crossing underpasses to enable wildlife to cross roads without having to negotiate traffic.
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