Deer crossing: It’s that time of year again

  • Published
  • By Elza Fowler
  • 78th Air Base Wing Installation Safety Office

“If we moved deer crossing signs off of highways, deer would finally stop running into oncoming traffic.”


That’s the complaint one caller in North Dakota aired to the Y94 Playhouse radio station in 2012. The caller was either hoaxing the hosts or really thought that her three deer-related car accidents over the past few years were the result of government posted deer crossing signs along high-traffic roads.


“My frustration is that Minnesota and North Dakota departments of transportation would allow these deer crossings in such high traffic areas,” the caller says. “Why are we encouraging deer to cross at the interstate?” 

Caller’s solution? Putting the warnings in low-traffic areas, like school crossings.


Because it is autumn and the temperatures are dropping, deer movement is picking up. And personally, I like my hood ornaments to be chrome plated metal, not flesh and bone. When are we most at risk? Dawn and dusk are the times you are most likely to encounter deer along the roadside. So as you are coming into work during hours of darkness and leaving work during hours of darkness, deer are moving about and feeding in open fields. Drivers need to be more vigilant traveling during the dawn and dusk hours. No sleeping allowed for front seat passengers; they should be vigilantly watching for deer, also.


Other than being vigilant, one of the most important things you can do is to slow down. That may mean driving slower than the speed limit. It won’t hurt you to be a little late to your destination but it may hurt if you hit a deer that could have been avoided. Hit a deer and you may not make it to your intended destination.  Will less speed keep you from hitting a deer?  Maybe not, but it will allow more time to brake if one darts into your path. 


Some recommend to watch for the shine of the deer’s eyes along the roadside. Deer can become mesmerized by headlights so if you see one with “deer in the headlights look,” slow down and prepare to stop. Don’t assume they will move. 


If you're on a multi-lane road, drive in the center lane which will give you more reaction time.


Another tip: never swerve to avoid a deer in the road. Swerving can also cause you to lose control taking you off the roadway into a tree or a ditch, and worst of all, cause a head-on collision with oncoming traffic. Deer are unpredictable creatures, so don’t try and predict which choice they will make.  Also, if you see one deer it is very likely there are more.


It wouldn’t be a safety article without some stats, so here they are:

- There are approximately 1.5 million deer-related car accidents annually.

- The cost of these accidents results in over $1 billion dollars in vehicle damage.

- There are around 175-200 fatalities every year and 10,000 injuries.

- The majority of these accidents occur between October and January, but can happen year round.