Studies show that nearly 1 in 136 Virginia drivers will have an accident involving deer in the next 12 months and that Virginia ranks among the top 10 states for deer collisions, according to the Prince William County Police Department.
Half of those collisions occur in the months of October, November and December, said Prince William Police spokesman Nathan Probus. "During this time of year, we see an increased activity with the deer mainly because of the mating season… typically at dusk and dawn."
According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, increased development of traditionally rural and wooded areas, the transition from daylight saving time to standard time, reduced daylight hours and increased deer activity during their autumn breeding season are among the factors that contribute to the increase in vehicle-deer collisions during the fall.
Probus said that deer tend to run in herds, so if one deer is present, there are probably others around. Motorists should also be prepared for the unexpected. Deer will often stop in the middle of the road and then double back.
The best thing to do to avoid deer collisions is drive the posted speed limit or slow down in deer crossing areas and be vigilant. If it's safe and there is no oncoming traffic, high beams provide an added safety measure, Probus said. "Use your high beams. That will help you to pick up some of that eye reflection from the deer, and maybe alert you a little bit faster."
Additionally, it is often unsafe to swerve to try to avoid the deer. Swerving can cause accidents that might be more serious than hitting the deer.
"If you happen to see a deer, sometimes there's just no way of avoiding it. The best thing you can do is let the car do its work. Brake, but don't counter steer. If you do that… you can lose control of the vehicle. The deer may make it off, but you're stuck there in an accident," Probus said.
If hitting a deer is unavoidable, brake until the moment of impact. Braking through impact lowers the hood of the car and increases the chance that the deer could crash through the windshield. Never touch an injured animal that is in the roadway.
Motorists who hit a deer, or other large animal, should call 9-1-1 if injuries are involved. If no one is injured, but damage has been done to property, motorists should call the police non-emergency number at 703-792-6500.
Visit the Prince William County Police Department website for more information.