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How to Avoid a Moose or Deer Collision

1.

Heed the warning signs. Collisions occur mainly in prime moose or deer habitat such as forested areas, waterways, etc. When you see the road signs, they're not there for the tourists; they mean that the area you are traveling through is moose or deer territory and that you need to take extra care. Moose and deer cross roads for a wide variety of reasons and at different times of the year. Often they want to get to another part of their habitat. Rutting season and hunting season also cause them to move. Bear in mind that just because you haven't crossed paths with a deer or moose in the past few months, that doesn't mean you never will. Stay alert.

2.

Drive at a safe speed. Do not speed when you are driving through moose or deer country. You'll still arrive if you go more slowly and you'll have more time to avoid an animal if you spot it. Wildlife experts have recommended 90 kph/55 mph as a suitable speed for wildlife zones in good weather conditions, as it provides you with some reaction time to stop. Of course, in blizzards, heavy rain and other difficult weather, you should adjust your speed to the distance you are able to see and to take into account the amount of ice on the road. Here are the things that suffer when you travel at too great a speed:

You can't stop quickly enough to avoid a collision;
The impact of a car/truck is far greater the faster you travel;
Your ability to take evasive action is massively reduced and you're more likely to resort to swerving instead of braking and gently responding.

3.

Drive defensively. Be prepared to take evasive action, which includes being able to quickly slow down, brake suddenly or turn down blinding headlights. Drive so that you are able to stop within the space of your headlights; practice this in a safe area if you don't know how fast this is for your vehicle. Make sure your seatbelt is on and check that all passengers are wearing theirs as well. A sudden lurch could have people catapulting from the car.

4.

Keep an eye out. Actively scan the sides of the roads as you drive for any signs of wildlife. If you have passengers, get them involved but ask them not to shout out as this is very startling and can cause the driver to react incorrectly. Ask them to gently tell you that they see moose or deer lurking about. Look on the road sides, the shoulders, down into ditches (they love the grass there), median strips, intersecting roads, on the road itself and try to spot any signs of movement, flashes of eyes or body shapes. Watch both sides of the road; there is some evidence that drivers tend to watch the side of the road next to the passenger seat more than their own side, making a false assumption that only one side is a problem. Scan both sides!

5.

Be especially wary at sunset and sunrise. Deer and moose seem to move most in the hours around sunset to midnight and again around dawn. These are also the hardest times for our eyes to adjust to the light (it's neither completely dark nor properly light), so we find it more difficult to see well. If you don't feel alert or can't see properly at these times, save your trip for another time.

6.

If you live in an area with a dense population of moose or deer (for example, Newfoundland or upper Vermont, the whole midwest USA) and you lack the confidence in driving defensively, avoid driving at night altogether. Those with poor night vision should also consider not driving in moose or deer regions at night. If you must drive at night:

Use your high beams where possible; they will illuminate more of the area that you are travelling through;
Move into the centre lane if you are travelling in a 3 lane road; or centre the car as much as possible if it is a 2 lane road;
Make sure your windshield is clear and is not reflecting grime, preventing you from seeing clearly; and
Drive below the speed limit, which has fuel economy benefits as well as safety benefits.

7.

Slow down when other cars are behaving differently. If you see flashing lights (hazard or headlights), hear tooting horns or see people waving madly about, slow down and be ready to stop! Of course, if a car stops suddenly ahead of you, you should also stop or at least slow right down. In these situations, the other cars may well have stopped because animals are already crossing the road ahead of you.

8.

Expect the unexpected. You've just driven into the outskirts of town, so everything's safe now, right? Wrong! Moose and deer wander into towns and city outskirts in search of food. They could be munching away on the median strip or bolting from someone's front garden. Still drive carefully. When you do come across a deer or a moose, don't expect them to react rationally. Blasting horns, flashing lights and a swerving metal machine are likely to terrify the animal witless and it will more than likely dart into your way rather than out of it. Bucks have been known to charge a stopped or moving cars of any size.

9.

Know when NOT to swerve. If you suddenly have a deer before your car, brake firmly. Do not swerve and leave your lane; many accidents are not due to colliding with the deer but are the result of driving into another car or truck in the opposite lane while trying to avoid the animal. The best thing to do is drive defensively in the first place and go slowly enough that you won't collide with a moose and can brake in time.

10.

Honk your horn when you see a deer near the road!! This is the most effective way for deer to know where the car is coming from and heading to. Their instincts should do the rest.

11.

Diminish the impact if it is inevitable. If an accident with a deer or moose is inevitable, here are some suggestions for lessening the impact:

Try to move to where the animal came from. This may take you away from it and the animal is more likely to keep moving forward rather than backtracking;This will only work if there is one animal. This will not work for deer.
Shift your line of eyesight to that spot as well - don't look at the animal or you'll steer that way;
Try to skim rather than fully impact the animal. Brake firmly, angle the car/truck and take your foot off the brake as you impact. The release of the brake will cause slight lift of the vehicle and this may be enough to stop the animal from rising into your windshield; If your vehicle is tall enough.
If you're heading into a collision with a moose, duck as low as you can. Moose come through the windshield and they tend to crush the car roof. If you are low enough, you may just survive. No guarantees are offered; you are far better off avoiding the collision.

12.

Take care after a collision with a deer or moose. There are some important steps to take after assessing if everyone has survived okay:

Pull over if possible. Put your hazard lights on and if you can, put the headlights onto the animal or as close as possible.
Check passengers for injuries and treat accordingly. Even if there are no injuries, shock will probably occur fairly quickly. Try to reassure one another and if it is cold, put on warmer clothing immediately as shock or fear increases the inability to ward off cold. If it is winter, stay in the car for warmth.
Avoid going near the animal; it may kick or gore you from fear and pain. If it blocks the road, use your hazard lights and headlights and keep your car stationary. Only attempt to move the animal if you are 100% certain that it is dead.
Use road flares or triangles if you have them.
Call the police immediately or flag down help.

Tips and Warnings

  • Another option is to quickly accelerate to get past the animal. It is difficult to choose this option fast enough to be effective because accelerating feels very counter-intuitive at this point. However, in the right circumstance, it can be your best option to avoid a collision.
  • Think ahead about how you would personally react in the situation of a deer or moose appearing before you. This pre-preparation mentally can make your reactions better and calmer.
  • One deer means more deer. Deer travel in herds and if you see one, slow right down as there will be many more. Moose are less gregarious, so one moose may simply mean one moose but it is still suggestive that more moose are in the area. And cows are frequently with a calf.
  • Use the headlights of other cars to help you scan for deer or moose. Watch for moving shadows within the beams of the other cars for signs of deer or moose.
  • Watch for water intersecting with the road - creeks, swamps, and wetlands are moose and deer attractants. The road is an easy pathway out of these waterways for an animal, so there is a higher possibility that they may be around them.
  • Get a motel room, pull over and rest or stay where you are and leave later if you feel that driving around deer/moose is too dangerous. It is better to arrive alive and late than to be injured or killed in the name of punctuality.
  • These tips will NOT work on other hoofed quadrupeds such as horses or reindeer and can only be used safely on deer or moose.
  • Do not drive if you are sleepy or you have had alcohol. Being sober is not only a prerequisite for driving safely, it is also essential for avoiding collisions with animals.
  • Deer whistles are somewhat of a gimmick; do not expect them to work.
  • Fences along the roads are not an assurance of safety. Deer or moose can walk around them, through them or over them. Don't rely on them; for peace of mind, drive carefully instead.

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