Humans aren’t the only ones looking for someone to cozy up with as temperatures drop. Fall is officially deer mating season, making them particularly active this time of year. Unfortunately, as they’re playing the field, it’s not uncommon for deer to wander (or run) into the road and oncoming traffic.
And despite their reputation for getting caught in the headlights, that’s one of the safer interactions you can have with them. In other situations, deer can cause serious accidents. Here are a few ways to help reduce your chances of hitting one.
How to avoid hitting deer
Even if you do everything right behind the wheel, deer are sneaky and fast, so there’s always the chance that they’ll make a last-minute dash across the street. Having said that, knowing how—and when—to look for deer when you’re driving can help you avoid a costly and potentially dangerous collision. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Know their schedule
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk—especially between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Be extra vigilant during those periods, using high-beam headlights (when appropriate to do so) to increase your range of visibility. But don’t let your guard down the rest of the time: Deer go where they want, when they want.
They travel in groups
When you see one deer, assume that others will follow. Even if one has finished crossing the road, slow down and be on the lookout for their family and friends.
Though your first reaction may be to swerve when you spot a deer in the road, you’re better off braking and honking your horn. Swerving may confuse the deer—potentially causing it to run towards your car—and increases your risk of hitting another vehicle on the other side of the road.
Deer crossing signs are there for a reason: Don’t ignore them—especially in wooded areas where deer are harder to see. In addition to watching the road in front of you, scan both sides as you’re driving, looking out for the shine of a deer’s eyes.