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Deer behavior can be erratic and unpredictable, especially during mating season (between October and January). Slow down and remain extra alert in areas with deer crossing signs, particularly after dark. Drivers should take safe steps to avoid a collision with any woodland animals — not only deer — that can result in extensive damage to vehicles and possible personal injury. Photo by Stacy Fisher

How to avoid deer-vehicle collisions

The American Automobile Association encourages drivers to use caution and remain alert to avoid becoming involved in a collision with wildlife.

Forest animals, including deer, bobcats, bears, even squirrels may appear crossing the roadway unexpectedly, and their actions can be erratic and unpredictable.

Deer especially can appear suddenly as you drive along Plumas County roadways, dashing across and sometimes stopping in the middle of the highway.

Deer rarely travel alone. The appearance of one deer likely means that other deer are nearby — possibly young fawns or yearlings waiting to follow their mothers across the road, so immediately slow down and keep an eye out for them.

Deer are most active at dusk and dawn. Particularly during mating season (between October and January) so slow down and stay alert, especially after dark.

Use extra caution when driving through deer-crossing zones. Yellow diamond shaped signs with a picture of a leaping deer on it is placed in high-traffic areas where deer are more likely to cross.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an independent, nonprofit scientific and educational organization dedicated to reducing the losses, injuries and deaths that deer-vehicle collisions in the U.S. cause; approximately 200 fatalities annually and $4 billion in vehicle damage.

Wildlife biologists like Coye Burnett of the U.S. Forest Service have some basic advice should drivers encounter deer on the road, beginning with remaining vigilant for any sign of deer or other animals in your periphery.

Of great importance is not to over-react if you see a deer on the roadway or if it crosses suddenly.

Drivers are further cautioned, Burnett said, to avoid evasive action at the last second even though deer collisions can cause extensive vehicle damage.

Burnett advises drivers to avoid swerving or leaving the road, which can result in hitting a tree, going off a cliff or crashing into other objects, potentially resulting in serious injuries.

Instead, “Apply the brakes firmly and calmly and stay in your lane if a deer appears without warning crossing the road ahead of you,” and bring your vehicle to a controlled stop.

If time permits, experts recommend that one long blast of the horn will startle deer enough to cause it to quickly leave the roadway.

However, if it seems like you can’t avoid hitting a deer, “you may have no other choice than to just hit it,” preferably at a reduced speed.

Burnett explained that it’s safer to hit a deer than to risk crashing into a fixed object such as a telephone pole or slamming into oncoming traffic.

If you do hit a deer or other animal, pull to the side of the road as soon as it is safe to do so, turn on your hazard lights and call emergency services if injuries are involved or the local police for property damage.

Stay away from the deer whether or not you think it is dead or alive. It could be injured and still dangerous if approached.

When contacting the authorities, let them know if the deer is in a hazardous spot on the road so that it can be removed as soon as possible to prevent further collisions from approaching traffic.

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