Although the danger of striking an animal exists year-round, several factors combine to make the risk especially acute during autumn.
The period between late October and mid-November is mating season for deer, which causes a higher number of deer to wander further than normal and creates potential for distraction as normally alert deer approach roadways. In addition, the shorter days mean more drivers are on the road during twilight hours, and, in many parts of the country, colorful foliage brings more drivers onto rural roadways.
According to statistics compiled by the advocacy group Defenders of Wildlife, there are between 725,000 to 1.5 million wildlife-vehicle collisions, and more than 200 human fatalities, annually in the United States.
To help reduce the risk of striking an animal, motorists should keep the following in mind:
- Pay attention to wildlife crossing signs. They are typically placed at locations that have experienced accidents or frequent animal activity in the past.
- Keep an eye on your speed, especially on rural roadways. Most animal collisions occur in dry weather along straight roadways, where drivers tend to pick up the pace.
- Scan the side of the roadway for signs of movement, or headlight reflections off animals’ eyes, especially during dusk and dawn hours when deer are most likely to be active.
- Be sure both of your headlights are working, and keep your windshield clean. These safety factors are always important, but can make a difference in helping you spot an animal during twilight hours.
- Understand that most animals travel in pairs or small groups, so if you see one animal, it likely has friends nearby.
If you see an animal run onto the roadway, try to control your vehicle with your brakes instead of your steering wheel. More accidents are caused by drivers losing control after swerving than by striking an animal directly.
By paying attention and slowing down, drivers can reduce the risk of colliding with wildlife.
Canada’s Wildlife Collision Prevention Program offers advice about sharing the roadway with animals safely and effectively.