Fall is peak season for deer-related vehicle accidents and motorists should
remember to drive defensively, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR)
“Nearly 50 percent of all vehicle accidents involving white-tailed deer
occur between October and December, with November by far the worst month,”
said Chad Stewart, deer research biologist for the DNR.
The main reason for deer collisions is the seasonal increase in deer
activity. With their breeding season approaching, deer become more active in
the fall and this activity often leads them to encounter roadways more
frequently, increasing the opportunity for a collision. Other factors
contributing to accident frequency are deer density, vehicle density,
surrounding habitat, speed limits, and time of day.
Indiana Crash Facts—an annual report compiled by the Indiana Criminal
Justice Institute, the Center for Criminal Justice Research, and the IUPUI
School of Public & Environmental Affairs—reported 15,205 deer-related
collisions in 2011. That’s a 4.9 percent decrease from 2010.
“With the number of deer and the number of vehicles out there, deer-vehicle
accidents will happen,” Stewart said. “The best thing drivers can do is to
take safety measures to keep them to a minimum.”
Knowing the following information and practicing defensive driving will help
reduce your chances of becoming a deer-vehicle collision statistic:
•Fall is the most common season to strike a deer.
•Deer are most active between sunset and sunrise.
•Deer often travel in groups, so if you see one, another is likely nearby.
•Be especially careful in areas where you have seen deer before.
•Use high beams when there is no opposing traffic; scan for deer’s
illuminated eyes or dark silhouettes along the side of the road.
•If you see a deer, slow your speed drastically, even if it is far away.
•Exercise extreme caution along woodlot edges, at hills, or blind turns.
•Never swerve to avoid hitting a deer; most serious crashes occur when
drivers try to miss a deer but hit something else.
•Drivers should pay attention to traffic signs warning of deer crossings and
may want to steer clear of gimmicks.
“Deer crossing signs have proved effective, but motorists tend to get
acclimated to such signs, and their efficiency can be reduced over time,”
Stewart said. “Fancy whistles or reflectors have not proven to be effective
Stewart said that even when practicing safe driving, sometimes hitting a
deer is inevitable. Caution is also the best approach after the fact.
“If you hit a deer, remain calm,” he said. “Do not approach the deer unless
you are sure it has expired. Despite their gentle nature, their hooves are
sharp and powerful, and can be extremely dangerous.”
Stewart said that, like cars and people, deer can be found anywhere, so
drivers should be on the lookout.
“Whether you’re driving through the Hoosier National Forest, your developed
neighborhood, or inside the city limits of Indianapolis, keep your eye out,”
he said. “Though a deer-vehicle accident can occur at any time of the day
during any season, your chances of striking a deer are greatest at low light
conditions between October and December. Take additional caution during
these times, lower your speed, and be alert.”