Drivers in the US and Canada often see warnings about driving safety and deer, particularly during the fall foliage season. Take deer and moose warnings seriously. Hitting deer or moose with your car can kill you, cause serious injury and smash up your vehicle. If you plan to visit a state or province known for its herds of deer or moose, take time to learn how to avoid hitting these animals with your car.
How to Avoid Hitting a Deer
Deer herds are increasing in many areas. Deer collisions are on the rise as a result. Automobile insurance firm State Farm® compiles annual deer collision statistics and predicts the likelihood of deer collisions for each state. According to State Farm®, there are deer in all 50 states. West Virginia led the collision-likelihood list from 2007 through 2016.
Deer have been spotted – and struck – on all types of roads, from narrow driveways to Maryland's Baltimore-Washington Parkway. Knowing how to spot deer and avoid hitting them will greatly reduce your chances of a close encounter with these beautiful but dim-witted creatures.
Deer travel in groups, so you are unlikely to see a single deer in the road. If you can only see one deer, chances are that there are two or three more in the woods, and if one runs, they all will.
You are most likely to see deer during the months of September, October and November because autumn is deer mating season.
Deer are most active at dawn and dusk, which are, unfortunately, also times when it is most difficult for drivers to spot hazards.
Here are some tips for driving safely in deer territory.
Be attentive if you are driving at dawn or dusk or during the fall mating season. You cannot see deer if you are not looking for them.
Put away the cell phone and keep noise to a minimum. Ask your passengers to help you look for deer. (Children and grandchildren will happily look for deer, particularly if they receive points for every deer they spot and report.)
Wear Your Seat Belt
Insist that all passengers do likewise.
Use Your Headlights at Night
Switch to your high beams when possible.
You can probably stop in time to avoid hitting a deer if you are driving at or slightly below the speed limit.
Stop and Wait, Flashing Your Hazard Lights
If you see a deer in the road, stop; it will eventually move away. If it stays still, try flashing your headlights and honking your horn. Once startled, the deer will leave the roadway. Remember to wait for the rest of the group to cross the road.
If a Collision Is Inevitable, Slow Down as Much as Possible and Hit the Deer
Do not swerve around the deer. You could flip your car, drive off an embankment or hit an oncoming vehicle. You might also collide with another deer from the herd.
How to Avoid Hitting A Moose
Moose and deer are crepuscular herd animals, meaning that they often travel in groups and are most active at dawn and dusk, but the two species do not behave in exactly the same way.
Moose are not only much larger and more aggressive than deer, they are also much less predictable. While a deer, once moving, is likely to continue running in one direction, moose are likely to change direction one or more times, doubling back on their tracks and remaining in the road for long periods of time.
Warning: Moose are extremely large animals. Hitting one could kill you. Colliding with a moose will seriously damage your car. Because a moose is large, with skinny legs and a barrel-like torso, hitting a moose with your car will probably cause the moose's body to hit your hood and windshield.
When and Where Could I Encounter Moose on the Road?
Moose need to eat a lot of foliage every day to survive, so you may find a moose blocking your path at any time. Be especially cautious during the June mating season, when males tend to be more aggressive.
If you plan to drive in states or provinces with large moose populations (Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Washington, Wyoming and the New England states and nearly all of Canada, particularly Newfoundland, Alberta and New Brunswick), take a close look at these tips for spotting and avoiding moose.
Pay Attention at All Times
While moose are most active at dawn and dusk, they wander onto roads and highways at all times of day and night.
Use Your Headlights
Do not expect to see moose easily at night. Moose are dark-colored and tall, so you may not see them until you are very close. (Tip: Look higher than you would if you were checking for deer; moose are much taller in real life than they appear in photos.)
Be particularly cautious at dawn, at dusk and in foggy weather. You are more likely to hit a moose if you cannot stop your car quickly.
Wear Your Seat Belt
The only thing worse than having a moose come through your windshield is being ejected through it yourself because you were not belted in.
Be Careful on Blind Curves
Even on a major highway, you may find a moose standing in the middle of the road as you round a bend, and you will need every available second to stop your car in time.
Stop Your Car
If you see a moose in the road, stop your car, turn on your hazard flashers and blink your headlights or honk your horn to warn other drivers. Do not swerve to avoid the moose; these creatures are unpredictable and may move right into your new path. Wait for the moose to move out of the road and give it time to walk well away from the shoulder before restarting your vehicle. Drive away slowly in case there are more moose in the area.
Krause, Rod. Watching for the white tails: tips to avoid deer collisions." Minot Air Force Base News October 22, 2008. Accessed October 10, 2010.
Maine Department of Transportation. "Be a Road Model. Topic: Moose Safety." Accessed October 10, 2010.
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department. "Brake for Moose: It Could Save Your Life." Accessed October 10, 2010.
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. "Drivers, Use Caution to Avoid Hitting Deer." Accessed October 10, 2010; updated September 2017.