How to Avoid a Deer Collision
The kaleidoscope of changing colors around you will bring more than pumpkins and bonfires. With the cool weather comes the season of the deer. In Fauquier and surrounding counties, these mammals cause quite a mess this time of year. At Hamiltons Auto Body, we see more deer collision auto repairs from September to December than any other time of year.
Here are a few tips to keep you safe this year.
Understand the Animal
Understanding animal behavior and patterns can help you avoid deer collisions by being ready. Why do deer come out more this time of year? This cool weather season is called “the rut”- when deer travel more looking for a mate. They are also looking to fatten up as much as possible before the cold of winter sets in and will travel farther to do this. Most of their food source (plants, nuts and leaves) will be scarce in a month or two. Early dawn and near dusk, tend to bring out the most deer. Being mostly nocturnal animals, these hours are more dangerous for drivers, especially as they are much harder to spot.
Deer are creatures of habit, so remember where you see deer on your drive home. It is likely you will see these deer multiple times in the same vicinity. Ignore the horn happy vehicle behind you and always slow down accordingly.
Specific Deer Collision Locations
This time of year is hunting season for Virginia. We are lucky to have such beautiful landscapes surrounding us here in Fauquier, but as drivers, we must be aware when we find ourselves on roads bordering public hunting lands or large farms. Deer are very likely to pop out of the woods while avoiding a strange smell or while chasing each other. (See map for locations of public hunting land)
Drive Carefully When Passing These Fauquier Locations
C. F. Phelps Wildlife Refuge in Sumerduck, VA. This area boasts 4,500 acres for outdoor opportunities. Deer collisions are very common on these outskirts.
G.R. Thompson State Wildlife Management Area in Markham, VA. Known for its beautiful landscape, Markham is prone to a multitude of wildlife and especially the borders of this 4,000 acre public hunting land. This land is located primarily in Fauquier county, but also encompasses parts of Warren and Clarke counties. Use caution while passing this area at dawn and dusk.
Flash Your Lights
When driving during early dawn, almost dusk or at night, be aware. Deer are on the move. While using your high beams is great for you to see deer early on, this can blind and confuse the animal (which is why they may run into the sides of vehicles). If you see a deer up ahead and feel comfortable in your night driving ability, shut your beams off and then on. If you can, do this two or three times. This allows the deer to see your vehicle’s shape and you will notice the deer heads in the opposite direction. Do not use this trick on winding, or unfamiliar roads.
Get Prepared for Deer Season
Simple, inexpensive preparations can save you, your passengers and your vehicle this time of year. Check your headlights and make sure they are clean and bright. Grab a friend and test all signal and brake lights. If you are also pulling a trailer, do the same with the trailer lights. When your vehicle doesn’t stop on a dime like it used to, schedule a brake inspection to ensure accurate stopping reaction time. Have your coolant freeze level checked at your next regular scheduled oil change. If your vehicle pulls to a side on a straight road and you don’t feel you have complete control, schedule an alignment inspection. Make sure to inspect and test all seatbelt functions for safety. To make sure your youngest passengers are completely safe, schedule a carseat safety inspection with Fauquier’s Police Department. Consider scheduling your VA State Inspection in August, so you can have all of these checked out before deer season kicks off.
When you see any creature while driving that has potential to cause an issue for other drivers, be a good neighbor. Flash your high beams on and off quickly when you see a car headed opposite you. This warning can be the difference between a deer collision and a safe drive home. If someone uses this system to warn you, flash your high beams once to let them know you understand and slow down. Keep a sharp eye and appreciate, even briefly, the kindness of strangers.
When a deer runs out in front of your vehicle, the natural reaction is to slam on the brakes and swerve. Avoid doing this, as it can cause a much more serious accident. While remaining aware of the vehicles and terrain around you, brake cautiously but firmly. Keep both hands at the 8 and 4 position on the wheel for best control. (Driver’s Ed now teaches 8 and 4, instead of 10 and 2 due to the danger of the steering wheel airbag forcing your hands in your face) Remaining in control of your vehicle and staying on the road, even in the path of a possible deer collision, is much safer for both you and the other drivers on the road.
We wish you a safe season, full of warm bonfires, pumpkin pies and not a single deer collision.
Do you have any other helpful tips to avoid deer in Fauquier this fall? Leave them in the comments below!