Todd Duncan, Law Enforcement and Safety Specialist

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

When we think of fall in Nebraska we think of Husker football, cooler weather, and fall colors. Fall also marks the beginning of deer breeding season, hunting season, and shorter daylight hours. As a result, there will be a significant increase in deer activity as well as deer-vehicle collisions on Nebraska roadways.

Nationwide, about 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions occur every year resulting in roughly 200 fatalities, 10,000 injuries, and $1 billion in property damage(1). The Midwest is one of the highest risk areas for deer-vehicle collisions in the country, and Nebraska is no exception. According to the latest Nebraska Department of Transportation crash data there were 2,412 animal-vehicle collisions statewide in 2020, a vast majority involved deer, and three were fatal(2).

While fall is a peak season for deer-vehicle collisions, time of day is also a big factor. The most dangerous times for deer-vehicle collisions are dusk and dawn. These are the times when deer are most active, and drivers have less visibility due to reduced lighting. Deer-vehicle collisions can occur just about anywhere, but drivers should use extra caution when traveling near wooded areas, water, or where deer-crossing signs are posted.

Here are a few things you can do to avoid deer-vehicle collisions and minimize risk:

  • Slow down. Watch for deer, especially around dawn and between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. when they’re most active and visibility is low. If you see an animal on the side of the road, slow down.
  • Stay alert. Watch from side to side as you drive, especially in areas of low visibility or where shrubs or grasses are near the road. At night when traffic permits, use your high beams at night to see farther ahead and watch for the eye-shine of deer near road edges.
  • Be aware. Look out for deer-crossing signs and wooded areas where animals are likely to travel. If you travel the same route to and from work every day, you may find deer consistently grazing in the same fields. Make a mental note of when and where you regularly see the animals.
  • Brake don’t swerve. Swerving to avoid an animal can put you at risk for hitting another vehicle or losing control of your car. It can also confuse the animal as to which way to go. Instead, just slow down as quickly and safely as you can. Your odds for surviving an accident are better when hitting an animal than when hitting another car.
  • Assume they have friends. “Where there’s one, there are usually more” often holds true. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one run across the road, expect others to follow.
  • Don’t rely on deer whistles. These are aftermarket devices that some drivers put on their front bumpers to scare off animals, but there is little scientific evidence that car-mounted deer whistles actually work.
  • Buckle up. A seat belt is your best defense for minimizing your risk in a crash. An Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study found that most of the people killed in animal-vehicle collisions weren’t wearing their seat belts. Motorcycle riders account for more than half the fatalities, and among that group, nearly half the riders who died were not wearing helmets.

Please contact Todd at 531-510-7446 or tduncan@nirma.info if you have any questions or to request training.

  1. Gary Wickert, “Subrogating the Deer in the Headlights,” Claims Journal, October 4, 2018, https://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2018/10/04/287048.htm
  2. “Standard Summary of Nebraska Motor Vehicle Traffic Accidents,” Nebraska Department of Transportation, 2020, https://dot.nebraska.gov/media/115099/2020-statewide-summary.pdf

 

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