Deer-vehicle collisions more likely in the fall

Daylight Saving Time ends this Sunday. Shorter and darker days will have motorists doing a lot of driving at the same time that deer are more likely to be crossing the road.

The chances of your vehicle colliding with a deer go up at this time of year.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is encouraging Virginia’s drivers to be more cautious as they travel the Commonwealth’s highways this season.

Fall is the breeding season for deer, and consequently, deer are more active now than at any other time of the year. One-half to two-thirds of all deer/vehicle collisions occur in the months of October, November and December. While less than two percent of vehicle fatalities and injuries involve deer collisions in Virginia, hitting a deer can cause considerable damage to both people and property.

According to a recent study done by State Farm Insurance, nationwide the number of claims for deer collisions rose by 8 percent from July 2011 to June 2012 while 8.5 percent of other types of accidents decreased.

Virginia, along with its neighbors West Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia, are marked as states with a ‘high’ probability of a run in with a deer. According to their data, if you live in West Virginia you have a 1 in 40 chance of hitting a deer. In Virginia, it’s 1 in 105.

Deer herds are increasing and there seems to be no shortage of vehicles on the road particularly as gas prices continue to fall.

Wildlife biologists with VDGIF estimate the population of white-tailed deer in the Commonwealth at this time of year to be approximately one million animals. VDGIF sets seasons and bag limits and other hunting regulations to manage the deer population.

Each year, hunters in Virginia harvest approximately 250,000 (a quarter of a million) deer. Without hunting, white-tailed deer could double their population within five years, due to their rate of reproduction.

As part of its outreach mission, several years ago VDGIF was one of a dozen organizations involved in the development of a report and an educational video on trends and prevention measures for deer-vehicle collisions in the Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC area. VDGIF sent a copy of the DVD developed by this committee to driver’s education instructors in high schools across the Commonwealth.

Is it possible to avoid hitting a deer?

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries recommends the following tips to drivers to avoid hitting a deer:

1. When driving, particularly at dusk and dawn, slow down and be attentive. If you see one deer, likely there will be others. If one deer crosses the road as you approach, others may follow.

2. Deer habitually travel the same areas; therefore deer crossing signs have been installed by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Use caution when you see these signs.

3. Drivers should apply brakes, even stop if necessary, to avoid hitting a deer, but should never swerve out of the lane to miss a deer. A collision with another vehicle, tree or other object is likely to be more serious than hitting a deer.

4. Rely on your caution and your own senses, not deer whistles you can buy for your car. These devices have not been shown to be effective.
Any person involved in a collision with a deer or bear while driving a motor vehicle, thereby killing the animal, should immediately report the accident to a Conservation Police Officer or other law enforcement officer in the county or city where the accident occurred.

5. Drivers who collide with a deer or bear, thereby killing the animal, may keep it for their own use provided that they report the accident to a law enforcement officer where the accident occurred and the officer views the animal and gives the person a possession certificate.

If you have questions about white-tailed deer or deer behavior, please visit the Department’s Web site at