Staying aware on the road is always important, but you should be keeping an extra sharp eye when you get behind the wheel right now. That’s because deer are most active in Ohio in October, November and December.
Known for being an animal that comes out when we go to sleep, you may begin to see more deer out during the day, creating the potential for crashes.
The deer mating season corresponds to the changes in daylight hours. From October through December, deer will become more active. Females (does) are compatible to mate for only a few days, laying down urine with hormones to attract a male.
Deer are known for their keen sense of smell. The same ability to pick up on human scent more than a quarter mile away allows them to find a doe that is ready to mate.
“Scents that signal to the bucks that they’re receptive and that kind of drives them crazy,” sai Dr. Don Cipollini, Wright State University professor of biology. “And they do a lot of searching, especially when there are only a few that are receptive at one particular time. The does will wander far and to find them.”
Naturally a timid and wary animal, bucks lose their caution during the rut as a result of higher testosterone, resulting in more collisions with cars.
Fortunately, fatal injuries to drivers or passengers of cars in collisions with deer are rare. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there were more than 18,000 deer-related crashes in Ohio from 2018-2022, but only three fatalities.
“You don’t want to swerve because that obviously sends you either into another lane — potentially into a car coming toward you — or off the road, and that’s, that’s very dangerous if you go off the road,” said Kara Hitches, public affairs manager with AAA. “So as terrible as it sounds, it’s best to hit the deer, but if you can, hit your brake really hard.”
With all the technology in newer cars, repairs could be costly.
“We want to be sure to check with your insurance agent to make sure that you are properly covered,” sai Hitchens. “We’ve seen cost of repair up over $5,000 these days per crash. So we know that can hit someone’s pocketbook pretty hard.”
If you hit a deer and it is injured, do not approach it. Instead, call the local police department to check on the deer and to report the crash.
The least expensive crash is the one that doesn’t happen. In that spirit, AAA offered some tips for avoiding hitting a deer during this mating season:
- Don’t just look straight ahead: By sweeping your eyes from left to right and back again, you can see animals before they dart out in front of you (or into the side of your car).
- Morning and evening are ‘danger hours’: Rush hour for us is ‘rut hour’ for deer. The periods of 5-8 a.m. and 5-8 p.m. are when the deer are most active.
- If you can, use your brights: Your bright headlights can reflect off the deer’s eyes, and in general can just help you see them sooner.
- Like Tuskan Raiders, deer rarely are alone: If you see one deer, there are likely more around.
- Honk if you can: Your horn may frighten deer away, especially if done in a drawn-out honk and not a staccato blast.
- If you’re going to hit it, slow down: If there’s no way to avoid the collision, don’t swerve. That can confuse the animal and, even worse, put you in the way of on-coming traffic. Slam your breaks.
- Always wear a seatbelt: Seatbelts reduce the severity of injuries in car accidents, and what is hitting a deer but another type of accident? You’re much more likely to get out of you vehicle and walk around if you have your seatbelt on.