Deer-vehicle crashes have more than doubled in Maryland since 1988 and can be costly and life-threatening. "The average deer-vehicle crash causes approximately $2,500 worth of damage to a vehicle," said John White, a AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesperson. "More importantly, motorists can be injured and sometimes killed in these crashes. It is vitally important for drivers to be aware of animal movements, particularly during rush-hour periods, through the end of the year."
According to the Department of Natural Resources, there were 3,849 deer-motor vehicle crashes recorded in Maryland last year as compared to 1,500 in 1988. Crash numbers were very high in more populated areas such as Montgomery (2,083) and Howard (1,296) counties in 2003.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates that more than 1.5 million deer-motor vehicle crashes occur each year, resulting in approximately 150 occupant deaths and more than $1 billion in vehicle damage. More precise data are hard to come by because collisions with deer are often not reported to police by the public.
Early morning and late afternoon hours are often the times when motorists encounter deer searching for food, shelter or a mate. For these reasons, AAA is advising drivers to be cautious when commuting to and from work and school.
Deer often travel several miles out of their normal areas during this time of the year. It is important for motorists to drive defensively and be attentive near wooded areas along local roadways.
AAA Mid-Atlantic offers the following tips for drivers:
Before Impact--If a crash with a deer is unavoidable, slow down and let off the brakes before impact. This will raise the front end of the car during the crash and increase the likelihood that the animal will go underneath the vehicle instead of through the windshield.
Protect yourself--Buckle up and obey the speed limit. A decrease in speed means an increase in the time to react.
Be on the lookout--Take notice of deer-crossing signs throughout the year, these signs indicate areas where deer frequently travel. Remember deer sightings, since deer are creatures of habit and may often use the same path again.
Here to there--Deer standing near the side of the road may suddenly leap onto the road. Use your horn to alert a deer, but do not shine or flash your lights since this can cause the deer to fixate on your vehicle.
One often means many--If you see a deer crossing the road ahead, slow down and scan for more deer. Deer often travel in groups. Others may be nearby but out of view.
Avoid swerving--Slow down and brake to avoid hitting a deer, but do not swerve. Swerving can cause a driver to lost control and strike another vehicle, or leave the roadway and strike a tree or roll over.
Don't just whistle--Don't rely on hood-mounted deer whistles and other devices to scare off deer. There is no conclusive evidence that these devices work.
Don't move it--Don't try to move a deer; an injured deer might panic and seriously injure a Good Samaritan. Call police or animal control for assistance.
This story was published on October 8, 2004.