Car Versus Deer Accidents



According to the Institute for Highway Safety, each year there are an estimated 1.5 million car versus deer accidents.  The peak months for these accidents are September through December – deer migration and mating season.  Deer are nocturnal and these accidents occur primarily between dusk and dawn which, unfortunately, is when the number of vehicles on the road is highest.  Minnesota usually ranks in the top ten of all states for car versus deer accidents, and the number of accidents occurring here is believed to be even higher due to drivers’ tendencies not to report them to law enforcement.    


Hitting a deer may cause significant damage to your vehicle, personal injury and even death.  The majority of serious injuries and fatalities result from drivers’ attempts to avoid colliding with deer.  Due to increases in the deer population, the sharing of habitat and the unpredictable behavior of deer, it may be extremely difficult to avoid being involved in a car versus deer accident. 


Notwithstanding the foregoing, there are precautions drivers can take to attempt to minimize hitting a deer.  They include:

·         At any time of day, slow down, leave yourself more following distance so you have more time to react, and wear your seatbelt

·         When driving between dusk and dawn, be even more attentive than usual and scan the road more frequently (i.e. avoid distractions like cell phone usage)

·         Anticipate the presence of deer near open and/or wooded areas and scan the ditches looking for movement, the reflection of light in a deer’s eyes, or a deer’s silhouette

·         Use your high beam lights when permissible to illuminate the sides of the road better

·         Look for “deer crossing” signs, but do not be falsely lulled into believing that deer are only likely to be encountered in areas where signs are posted – deer are quite mobile this time of year

·         Remember that deer move in packs – if you see one slow down and be ready to stop as there is a very strong likelihood that more are very close by

·         Do not rely on “deer whistles” or other such devices, some studies have shown they are ineffective

Most fatalities in car versus deer accidents are caused by the driver taking evasive action, such as swerving to avoid the deer.  Unfortunately, this often results in loss of control of the vehicle, hitting another car or fixed object, or driving into oncoming traffic.  While it may sound cruel, it is safer to hit the deer than swerve.  The Minnesota Department of Transportation’s advice is to keep your course even if that means hitting the deer.  The Minnesota State Patrol counsels “Don’t veer for deer.”  The best approach is to keep a solid grip on the steering wheel, apply your brakes firmly and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop. 


If you hit a deer, immediately contact law enforcement by dialing 9-1-1.  If the deer is still in the roadway and it is safe to do so, block the lane to keep other drivers from hitting the deer and turn on your flashers.  Do not approach an injured deer as it may hurt you.  Even if the deer is dead it is safer to wait for the police to arrive than attempting to remove the deer from the road yourself.  If you want to keep the deer carcass it will be necessary for you to first obtain a permit.  The responding officer will issue you one at the scene for free. 


Should you have any questions please contact the police department at 763-784-2501.  Thank you and stay safe.

Centennial Lakes Police Department - 54 North Road - Circle Pines, MN 55014
Office: 763.784.2501 - Fax: 763.784.0082 - Dispatch/911: 763.427.1212