5 Safe Driving Tips for Deer Season

Some people count the days until summer vacation. But every summer, I count the days until November—the start of buck hunting season.

While my wife wishes I’d take up a safer hobby—croquet, maybe—my buddies and I know how to stay protected in the brush. We also keep our senses on high alert when we hit the road during this time of year, because you never know what might cross your path. Whether you’re heading out for the hunt or just passing through a deer-populated area, there are a few safe driving tips to keep in mind as deer season gets into full swing:

Be aware of your surroundings

There are about 1.5 million motor vehicle crashes involving deer in the United States each year, according to the National Science Foundation. These crashes tend spike from October to December, when deer activity rises, the Institute for Insurance Information says. To avoid becoming part of this statistic, pay close attention to what’s around you, especially when driving through the woods. Whenever I spot those yellow deer crossing signs, I slow down and keep my eyes on the sides of the road, since these often signal areas with a history of deer-related crashes.

Look out for the group

Deer don’t usually travel alone, so if you see one in your path, keep your eyes open for the rest of the group. Slow down (or stop) and do your best not to swerve if a deer enters the road—you don’t want to cause one type of accident while trying to avoid another. Also, be sure to leave plenty of space between you and the cars around you, in case you need to brake quickly.

Check the clock

Deer tend to be on the move during dawn and dusk. Since road visibility can be low during these times, try turning on your high-beam headlights to get a better view—just make sure you tone them down when oncoming traffic approaches.

Keep your car in good shape

You sure don’t want a pair of antlers coming through your windshield. Ensuring that your brakes and tires are in good working order can help protect you from damage if you need to react in an instant. You should also check that your seat belts fasten properly, as buckling up can improve your chances of emerging from an accident unscathed.

Have an accident action plan

Like all animals, deer are unpredictable. While you can take many steps to improve your safety, you can’t defend yourself against every possible scenario. If you do get into an accident with a deer, see if anyone is injured and call the local police and/or medical services. Do not attempt to touch a deer that’s in or near the road. Since there’s likely to be damage to your vehicle, make sure you also contact your insurance agent to report the accident.

Though safe driving is important at all times, these few extra steps can help get you through hunting season accident-free. As for me, I probably won’t be behind the wheel all that often—I’d rather enjoy hunting season from a tree stand!

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