Stay clear, but don’t veer from deer
After dining to contentment and heading to your car as you leave a friend’s or relative’s home during the holidays, you’ll probably hear the familiar warning: “Watch out for deer.”
It may be as casual and commonplace as “goodbye” after dark this time of year, but that word of caution is not for nothing. We’re just coming out of “the rut,” or what is known as peak deer breeding season, according to a press release from AAA Mid-Atlantic asking drivers to be cautious.
Of course, all those lovesick 10-point bucks out there didn’t get that memo, any more than they cross the road only where the yellow signs indicate it’s a possibility. Deer won’t now stop attempting to breed and just disappear until next year. Far from it, in fact.
Although most deer-vehicle collisions occur between those dates locally, AAA reports the final phase of deer mating season ends around Dec. 9, which means there are still likely to be deer roaming on our local roadways, particularly in the most rural areas. “Most animal-vehicle collisions occur on two-lane roads bordered by natural habitat,” Ragina Cooper Averella, government and public affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said in the release.
And anyone from Southern Maryland knows we have no shortage of roads fitting that description here. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources’ 2017-2018 Annual Deer Report reports 11,168 deer were killed by vehicles across the state in 2017. Of that number, 125 were struck and killed in St. Mary’s. Our neighbors had considerably higher numbers — 250 in Calvert, 229 in Charles — so travel throughout the tri-county area is worth being cautious.
And the deer aren’t the only ones harmed during these incidents. Often, these crashes can cause injuries to drivers and passengers, and sometimes can be fatal.
With that in mind, AAA offers the following tips to help drivers avoid potentially deadly and costly accidents involving deer and other animals who don’t abide by any manmade rules of the road:
Scan the road and shoulders ahead to give yourself enough reaction time if an animal is spotted. If you see a deer, know they rarely travel solo, so be on guard for more that may be in the area.
The times to be most cautious are at dawn and dusk, as deer tend to be more active early in the morning, but can also be spotted as late as midnight. Use high-beam headlights if there’s no oncoming traffic and it is darker out. You’ll spot any wildlife in the road earlier that way, giving you more time to slow down, move over or honk to frighten the animal away. High beams can also be helpful in spotting animals’ reflective eyes.
Drive slower and use more caution in areas known to have a more active wildlife population. Also be vigilant on roads that divide farm from forest land.
If a deer does dart out in front of your vehicle, don’t swerve. Many serious crashes happen because the driver swerved to avoid hitting an animal and hit another vehicle instead, or lost control, the release states.
If a collision is unavoidable, just step firmly on the brakes, try to remain in your lane and hope for the best. And if you do happen to hit a deer, don’t try to move it. Call law enforcement or animal control for assistance.
Finally, wear a seat belt (it’s also the law) and remain alert and sober (again, the law).
Keeping these tips in mind can help reduce your chances of an unfortunate run-in with a deer or other animal while driving. With the holidays having now officially begun, it’s important that we all do our part to ensure everyone can get to where they need to be safely.