The leaves have changed colour, the days are cooler, and you’re out for drive. But suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a deer is in front of your car.
Fall is when deer are particularly active, says the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, and especially at dawn and dusk, because they’re searching for mates and food.
Ontario Provincial Police in Norfolk are urging people to be cautious and aware of their surroundings. On Sunday, they responded to multiple crashes within 24 hours, all involving deer.
Here are some ways they say you can avoid a crash:
Look all around you, and not just straight ahead. The ministry and OPP say deer and other animals can run across the road from ditches and protected areas, like stream corridors and woodlots.
The season also plays a factor. While deer and other animals can move across the roads at any time of the day or year, there’s more deer movement in the fall, especially around sunrise and sunset (which is when deer-vehicle collision rates increase significantly.)
Removing distractions, the OPP says, will also give you the best chance possible to see and predict where deer might go.
The ministry says drivers should take extra care where:
- Roads cross creeks or rivers.
- There are wooded corridors.
- Field edges run at a right angle to the road.
- Fences meet roads.
- Wildlife crossing signs are posted.
There might be more than one
If you see one deer, expect others nearby. Deer often travel in herds, so there might be two or more.
Reduce your speed
Drivers should slow down. The slower you go, police say, the more time you have to react if you did encounter a deer.
Honk your horn
The ministry says if drivers do see animals along the road, they should sound their horns in a series of short bursts.
Look for light, and blink your own
If you’re driving at night, police say you should watch for the glowing eyes of deer.
Drivers can also blink their headlights at night, the ministry says, to warn the animals and give them a chance to move out of the way.
Make sure your seat-belt is on. If you need to stop in a hurry, police say, you want your body restrained to prevent unnecessary injury or possibly death.
‘Don’t veer for deer’
If a deer runs into the road, and into the path of your car, police say you should reduce your speed quickly, steer straight and stay in control.
“By changing your direction quickly, you increase the risk of losing control, running off the roadway and rolling your vehicle. This increases the likelihood of sustaining greater damage to your vehicle and serious injury,” said Const. Ed Sanchuk of Norfolk County OPP.
Sanchuk said that any time a driver is in a collision, they should report it to their local police service. Most insurance companies will want an occurrence number, he said.
“Unfortunately the amount of damage to vehicles after hitting an animal can be in the thousands,” he said. “It’s always best to report the collision to your local police authority, especially damage that is $2,000 and up.”