Think you own the road? So do deer and other critters
Animals can’t read traffic signs, and some humans don’t bother. Caution signs alerting drivers to animal crossings dot highways across the U.S. But deer refuse to be corralled into using designated crosswalks, so the open highway is wide open to them. Deer cross wherever they want, and sometimes they choose to do so just as a hapless driver speeds along. November is the peak of deer mating season, prime time for deer-car collisions. Be careful out there, especially if you are planning a trip north because our neighboring states have more deer crashes than Florida.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates there are more than 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions each year, resulting in 150 occupant deaths, tens of thousands of injuries and over $1 billion in vehicle damage. Preventing these deadly crashes is a matter of being more aware of the dangers on dark, forest-laden roads. If you’ve seen one deer, you’ve NOT seen them all — because they travel in a herd. The one you see is the first signal to slow down.
Additionally, if an animal darts out in front of your car, resist the urge to swerve. Yes, it’s instinctive. Fight it. Many potential deer-car crashes were made worse by a reactive swerve that either caused the driver to hit the deer at an angle, rather than straight on, or sent the car careening into a tree or ravine. The swerve maneuver could have deadlier consequences for both the driver and the deer. Slowing down is the best defense.
Florida has been challenged with the high number of panther deaths on the road. Solutions are building higher fences, creating more wildlife crossings — and urging drivers to S-L-O-W down.