It is the beginning of the breeding season for Whitetail Deer in Pennsylvania. Normally reclusive bucks will be on their feet chasing after a doe or running off potential male challengers. Since our roadways are located within their home range, these deer will run across this time of year with even less caution than normal. In addition, there is a big game hunting season in our area through mid-January. While the hunters are doing their part to keep the population in check, which will ultimately reduce potential accidents, they can also inadvertently bump deer from their normal bedding and feeding areas and onto a roadway.
The bottom line is that over the next couple months, the potential to strike a deer with your car will increase. Sometimes there is nothing you can do, and even our police cars suffer deer collisions almost every year. However, here are a few tips that may help prevent hitting a deer.
- Do not exceed the speed limit. Not only will this keep you from getting a ticket, but the slower you travel also allows more time to react if a deer should jump out in front of you.
- Stay alert and scan the sides of the roadway ahead of you. If you see a deer about to cross the road or glowing eyes in your headlights, either stop or slow down significantly. If one deer crosses, assume more deer will follow.
- Use extra caution at dawn and dusk, as these are the peak times for deer movement. Despite what some people think, deer will cross anywhere they want, not just at deer crossing signs (we only partially kidding about this).
- If driving at night and there are no cars in front of you, use your high beam headlights. Not only will you be able to see better, but the light will also illuminate the deer's reflective eyes.
- Should a deer jump out in front of you, brake firmly and do not swerve unless you are positive you won't strike something else. Hitting a 150-lb deer will likely cause less damage and personal injury than striking another vehicle or tree.
- Do not assume deer whistles or your horn will keep a deer from crossing the roadway in front of you.
- If you do hit a deer, please call 911. Not only will your insurance company want you to report the accident, but the deer will often not die immediately. We do not want the animal to suffer and an officer will respond to dispatch the deer in as safe a manner as possible.
While not vehicle related, since hunting season is upon us, here are a couple other things to keep in mind. The safety zone for those hunting with a gun is 150 yards and hunters must be that distance from a home or structure. However, the safety zone for archery hunters is only 50 yards. If you feel someone is violating those distances, please contact the PA Game Commission since it is a game law infraction. If you find someone is hunting on your land who does not have permission, please contact the police, as that is a trespassing violation that we can enforce.