Motorists and deer are both plentiful this time of year, and all too often they meet on Wisconsin roadways with damaging consequences. Deer activity increases this time of year as does look for places to give birth and young deer separate from their mothers. With this increased activity, drivers may encounter more deer darting into the paths of their vehicles without warning.
Although motor vehicle collisions with deer peak in the fall months, June is one of the worst months for driver and passenger injuries due to deer crashes. In four of the last five years, June ranked as the worst or second worst month for motorists’ injuries from deer crashes, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).
“Of course, the best way to prevent injuries is to avoid crashes by paying attention and slowing down. You also must be buckled up in case a crash can’t be avoided,” says Wisconsin State Patrol Major Sandra Huxtable, director of the WisDOT Bureau of Transportation Safety. “Motorcyclists must be especially careful because collisions with deer can be fatal to motorcycle drivers and passengers. Motorcycles were involved in four of the five fatal deer versus motor vehicle crashes in 2011.”
Law enforcement agencies reported 18,165 deer vs. motor vehicle crashes last year. Dane County had the most motor vehicle vs. deer crashes reported in 2011 with 846. Shawano County had the second most with 762 followed by Waukesha County with 707. In Shawano and Green Lake counties, more than half of all reported crashes in 2011 involved deer. Deer are the third most commonly struck object in Wisconsin traffic crashes (behind collisions with another vehicle or a fixed object).
Ways to avoid deer crashes
- Be vigilant in early morning and evening hours, the most active time for deer.
- Eliminate distractions while driving and don’t speed.
- Always wear your safety belt—there are fewer and less severe injuries in crashes when safety belts are worn.
- If you see a deer by the side of the road, slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
- When you see one deer, look for another one—deer seldom run alone.
If you find a deer looming in your headlights, don't expect the deer to move away.
- Headlights can confuse a deer and cause the animal to freeze.
- Brake firmly when you notice a deer in or near your path.
Do not swerve. It can confuse the deer as to where to run.
- It can also cause you to lose control and hit a tree or another car.
- The one exception is if you are riding a motorcycle. In this case, you should slow down, brake firmly and then swerve if you need to in order to avoid hitting the deer. When swerving on a motorcycle, always try to stay within the lane if at all possible to avoid hitting other objects.
If your vehicle strikes a deer, stay in your vehicle and do not touch the animal if it is still alive.
- The injured deer, in attempting to move, could hurt you or itself.
- Walking or stopping on the highway is very dangerous—you could be hit by an oncoming vehicle if you get out of your car.
- The best advice is to get your car off the road if possible, and call law enforcement.