Although autumn is the most hazardous time of year for deer/auto collisions, a recent fatal encounter served as grim reminder that Middle Tennessee motorists need to be on the lookout year-round.
According to Dickson County law enforcement officials, a deer bounded across the road in front of a vehicle, was stuck, and hurtled back into the windshield of a trailing vehicle. The driver of the second vehicle was fatally injured.
The state’s deer herd is increasing, especially in suburban areas where the animals cannot be hunted, and with more and more cars on the roads, collisions are inevitable.
Sometimes they can’t be avoided: a deer suddenly darts out of roadside foliage directly into the path of a vehicle. It happens in a split-second, and the driver doesn’t have time to hit the brakes or swerve.
Sometimes, according to traffic experts, it’s better to simply brace for the impact rather than try to swerve to miss a deer. Depending on speed, road conditions and oncoming traffic, swerving to try to avoid hitting the deer could result in a more serious accident than if the deer were struck.
During the fall mating season is when deer are most active, as bucks chase does with reckless abandon. They don’t hesitate to dart across roadways, ignoring traffic.
Contrary to some media reports, that increased autumn activity has nothing to do with hunting season. The running deer are not being pursued by hunters; the same sort of frantic activity can be witnessed in parks and other wildlife sanctuaries where no hunting is allowed.
The recent accident reinforces that fact; obviously no hunting was taking place in mid-summer to prompt the deer to dash across the road.
About all motorists can do to hopefully avoid a collision is slow down and remain vigilant when driving through areas in which deer are abundant. Deer are most active in early morning and late afternoon, but their movements are not restricted to those times; sometimes they cross roads in the middle of the day.
Deer frequently feed along roadways where the grass is lush. When a browsing deer is spotted, slow down. It could bolt into the road at any moment.
This time of year look out for fawns. They may follow their mother across a road, completely oblivious to roaring traffic.
If one deer darts across the road, slow down and look out. Chances are another one or two will follow.
If you hit a deer, don’t stop in the road if your vehicle is drivable. Drive to where there is ample room to pull over, out of the way of other traffic.
Don’t approach an injured deer. The thrashing hooves of even a small deer can be dangerous.
In the event of vehicle damage, contact the highway patrol or local law enforcement officials. The accident report will assist with insurance claims.
Slowing down and staying alert is about the only way to avoid hitting a deer. And sometimes even that’s not enough.
Larry Woody is The Democrat’s outdoors writer. Email him at [email protected]