This past summer, our family was driving down a winding country road in rural Virginia — traveling below the posted speed limit — when out of no where, a whitetail deer leaped in front of our vehicle.
Amid my wife’s screams and children’s bewilderment, I watched as our family’s beloved SUV kill the largest buck I’ve ever seen.
Though our vehicle was totaled and the collision killed the deer instantly, we were very fortunate: everyone inside the car was safe; which considering that not too long afterwards, we heard of a woman who shared a mutual friend with us dying from a scenario quite similar to ours.
Up to this year, I have thought very little about the dangers of vehicle-deer collisions, but thanks to the tragedy of a friend’s life being lost and the experiences of our family, too, this reality is a little closer to home.
This week, numerous states governmental agencies throughout the Appalachian region have urged motorists to exercise caution while driving during the fall months because vehicle collisions with deer typically increase during this time of year.
Because the Appalachian region has an abundant white-tailed deer population, there are more opportunities for collisions, “especially during the peak breeding season in October and November when deer are more active,” said Tyler Evans, a wildlife biologist for the State of West Virginia. “On average, about 40 percent of deer-vehicle collisions in West Virginia take place between October and December.”
The region’s rugged terrain also contributes to collisions, as high-quality deer habitat often is in valleys where conditions allow for agricultural production and more natural food sources. Winding, hilly roads bordered by forests also reduce the distance drivers can see animals ahead, increasing the chances of collisions.
Motorists can observe the following driving tips in order to reduce the likelihood of having their lives ruined by a collision with a deer:
* Be aware of your surroundings and make use of your peripheral vision. If you see a deer in the roadway, immediately reduce your speed and honk your horn using short blasts.
* Drive with your headlights on and use high beams whenever it is safe to do so.
* Drive at a reduced speed, especially during early morning and late evening hours when deer are more active.
* Do not swerve or leave your lane to avoid a deer. If you encounter a deer, press your brake pedal firmly and attempt to stop.
* Always drive defensively.
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