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Safety Note - Deer Season


Deer are more active this time of the fall. Crops are being harvested and deer breeding season is in full swing.

-- During the breeding season, bucks become more active searching for does with which to breed. Bucks are bolder, less wary and more susceptible to collisions with vehicles. Deer movement peaks each day near dawn and dusk.

-- Anticipate the possibility of a deer on the road and plan how to avoid a collision. Be prepared to stop suddenly, but braking too sharply or swerving may cause you to lose control and roll your vehicle.

-- When driving near fields, woodlots or creeks, especially during evening or early morning, slow down and watch for deer. Keep your headlights on bright if there is no approaching traffic.

-- When you spot a deer, assume there will be others in the same area.

-- Deer often seem to be disoriented or confused by headlights. Some react by freezing in the light, some dart into the path of the vehicle and others bolt away. Honk your horn and flash your headlights to frighten deer away. If there is other traffic on the road, activate your emergency flashers and tap your brakes to alert other drivers to the potential danger.

Extra vigilance called for as days shorten, deer become more active.

Delaware drivers are urged to use extra caution on roads during deer mating season, especially as the days shorten and deer become more active in the morning and evening. Late October through November is peak period for deer-related crashes, as that’s when white-tailed bucks are in their annual pursuit of does.

White-tailed deer breed only once a year. The mating season, which carries on from late October into mid-December, and peaks from Nov. 11 to 20, is referred to as the rut. “During this time frame, deer activity increases substantially as bucks search for mates,” said Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) Division of Fish and Wildlife Environmental Program Manager Joe Rogerson. “If a buck’s pursuit of a doe takes them across a roadway, it doesn’t matter if it’s a rural road or Route 1, a collision with a vehicle could occur. Delaware drivers need to pay particular attention while behind the wheel this time of year, especially when driving on roads bordered by woods or agricultural fields, since that’s where deer are more apt to run out onto the roadway.”

The average white-tailed deer in Delaware weighs about 140 pounds, with larger bucks going 200 pounds or more, according to the DNREC Division of Fish and Wildlife. Hitting an animal that size may cause injury to drivers or passengers, or trigger an accident involving other motorists – besides doing costly damage to vehicles involved in such a collision. The best way to prevent or lessen the severity of deer collisions is attentive driving, which includes avoiding distractions that can take a driver’s eyes off the road, such as mobile phones, adjusting the radio, eating while driving, or passenger activities.

DNREC also notes that the upcoming end of daylight savings time on November 6th means that early morning travel hours (between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.) will be the times when the deer are most active. They say that they become active again from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

“With shorter daylight hours during the fall, we see an increase in deer along our roadways,” said Kimberly Chesser, Office of Highway Safety director. “We remind drivers to be alert, pay attention to the road and surroundings, and be more cautious during these times. Slow down and watch for deer crossing signs that indicate areas where deer are known to cross the road. Never drive impaired and always buckle up, every trip, every time.”

The Delaware State Police and DNREC offers some other safety tips as well:

  • Always wear your seatbelt to reduce your risk of injury in a car crash

  • Lower your speed at night, on curves, and in bad weather

  • Switch to high beams when there is no oncoming traffic to better reflect the eyes of deer on or near the roadway and scan the sides of the road as well as what’s directly ahead.

  • Watch for “Deer Crossing” signs marking commonly-traveled areas by deer on the road ahead. Slow down immediately and proceed with caution until past the crossing point.

  • Be aware deer usually travel in groups, so if you see one deer, there are likely to be others.

  • Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten deer away. Do not depend on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences and reflectors to deter deer, as these devices have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.

  • Do not swerve to miss a deer – brake and stay in your lane. Losing control of your car or truck, crossing into another lane, hitting an oncoming car or truck, or leaving the roadway and hitting a tree or utility pole will likely result in a much more serious outcome than hitting a deer.

  • If you hit a deer, and your car or truck is damaged, stop at the scene, get your car off the road if possible, turn on your vehicle hazard lights – and if you or anyone in your vehicle are injured, call 911.

  • Do not touch the animal or get too close; injured deer may bite or kick and are capable of causing serious injury.


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