Six Tips to Remember to Avoid Striking a Deer This Fall

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Alberta Deer in Fall

The end of September marks the beginning of fall, a time of year that brings a gradual change to the surroundings, manifested by the cooling temperatures, reduced daylight and leaves changing from deep green to shades of yellow, orange and red.

But there's another change that comes with autumn that isn't quite as gradual: the increased incidence of deer crossing the road, posing a severe risk to motorists, particularly those who travel in the early morning hours.


Over the years, there have been numerous reports about the prevalence of deer during the fall season. According to insurance industry statistics, motorists strike an average 60,000 deer each year - approximately two times more than how many were hit 10 years ago. Typically, these incidents lead to a car insurance claim due the damage that results, often times serious enough to require medical treatment.

Marcel Huijser, a road kill researcher for the Western Transportation Institute at the U.S.-based Montana State University, told the Canwest News Service that many of the attempts public transit workers have tried to implement haven't been successful. In 2008, he and some of his colleagues produced a report - the Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Reduction Study - for the government that assessed what crash mitigation techniques had been implemented at the state level.

Western Canada is particularly rife with deer as well as deer crossings. According to statistics gathered by Defenders of Wildlife, there are four to eight large animal vehicle collisions every hour in Canada. And in British Columbia alone, in the typical year, three people are killed by deer crossings, nearly 370 motorists are injured, and more than $600,000 is spent by the Ministry of Transportation for highway cleanup related to accidents involving deer and other animals.

Fortunately, some steps taken by provincial governments have resulted in fewer incidents. For instance in Alberta's Banff National Park, 22 wildlife underpasses and two overpasses have reduced roadkill by 80 percent.

There are steps that motorists themselves can take in order to reduce their risk of hitting a deer. The following tips may be of some use as peak season for deer crossings - usually between October and November - approaches:

  1. Be aware of the time that you're driving. Typically deer are most active when people aren't, namely in the early morning hours and late at night.

  2. Take note of deer crossing signs. Yellow signs alerting motorists of deer are there for a reason. If you see them, be sure to be extra vigilant.

  3. Be mindful of your speed. Wildlife experts say that the best way to reduce your risk for striking a deer is by obeying the speed limit.

  4. Make full use of your headlights. So long as no one is coming the other way, you should always have your high beams on. This not only lessens the risk of a deer crossing the street, but it widens your sphere of vision so that more things are illuminated.

  5. If at all possible, avoid swerving. Deer collisions typically happen with little notice, making it difficult to forecast how you'll react when you see a deer. Try your best, though, not to swerve if a deer crosses, as this increases the risk of running into another vehicle or driving off the road entirely.

  6. Be wary of 'deer whistles.' Some people believe that by mounting deer whistles to the roof of a car, they'll reduce the likelihood of a collision. However, studies have shown that these aren't very reliable, as the high-pitched noise that emanates from them when the wind passes through is limited.