AAA Mid-Atlantic has issued a timely reminder that Maryland's deer population is in the amorous throes of late autumn, when the sex-besotted beasts are especially likely to jump into the path of your vehicle while in the single-minded pursuit of a mate.
The results can be deadly -- and not just for the deer. In 2007, the last year on recoord, two people died and 458 were injured in 1,962 animal-vehicle crashes, according to the Deer-Vehicle Crash Information Clearinghouse.
According to AAA, the average property damage claim from a deer-vehicle crash was $3,300.
“Keep in mind, with increased development, deer habitat has decreased and deer are interacting and living closer to humans,” saiid AAA spokeswoman Ragina Averella. “Drive defensively and be alert, particularly near wooded areas along local roadways. Most deer-vehicle collisions occur on two-lane roads bordered by natural habitat."
AAA offered the following tips for dealing with deer on the road:
• Buckle up and do not speed. A decrease in speed gives you more time to react.
• Be observant. Look for deer-crossing signs indicating areas where deer frequently travel. Deer are creatures of habit and may often use the same path again – remember where you see them.
• Be alert. A deer standing near a roadside may suddenly run across the road. Slow down and use your horn to scare the deer. Never shine or flash your vehicle's lights. This can cause the deer to fixate on your vehicle. Use high-beams for greater visibility.
• Look for groups. Deer travel in groups, so if you see one crossing the road ahead slow down, as there are probably others in the area but out of view.
• Never swerve. Instead, slow down and brake. Swerving can cause you to lose control of your vehicle and strike another vehicle or object along the roadway.
• Do not rely on devices. There is no conclusive evidence that hood-mounted deer whistles and other such devices work.
• Slow down. If a crash with a deer is unavoidable, AAA recommends slowing down and releasing your foot from the brake before impact. This will raise the front end of the car during the crash and increase the likelihood that the animal will go underneath the vehicle instead of through the windshield.
• Do not try to move a deer. An injured deer might panic and seriously injure a Good Samaritan. Call police or animal control for assistance.
I'll add a few of my own:
•Put away the cell phone. Talking on a cell phone while driving is never a good idea, but it's especially risky when traveling on roads where deer are likely to jump out. Avoiding deer collisions requires your full attention.
•Make a mental note of deer strikes. If you see a dead deer by the side of a road, that tells you something about that road.
•Don't get complacent on highways. Deer don't necessarily avoid interstates and other limited-access highways. The higher the speed, the greater the impact. Take it easy.
•Put your passenger to work. In especially high-risk areas, such as the back roads of the Eastern Shore or areas in transition from rural to suburban, ask a passenger to be alert for deer. Not only does that make that person a second set of eyes, it can deter driver-distracting activities and chatter.
One more thing: If you're a parent of a teen who is close to getting a driver's license, you have a great opportunity to raise consciousness about a hazard they might not hear much about in driver's ed. If the teen is about to get a learner's permit, ask him or her to be your spotter in areas of high deer risk. If the teen is driving on a permit with you in the car, calmly issue reminders to look out for deer when in those areas.
The kid might think you're annoying or obsessive, but you'll plant a thought in his or her mind that won't go away. Think of it as Positive Parental Brainwashing.