NEWS | Nov. 3, 2014

Oh dear, I just hit a deer

By 628th Air Base Wing Safety Office

You're driving to work. Its 6 a.m. and dark outside and your lights are barely illuminating the woods on one side of the road and the open field on the other.

All of a sudden there is a flash in front of your car, a loud noise, and you're pushed against your seatbelts as you hit the brakes.

You have just become a statistic, one of the 2,000 people who will hit a deer in South Carolina this year. Here's a little fact: South Carolina is ranked tenth in the country for deer/vehicle collisions, and is averaging 2,000 deer strikes per year for the past three years.

So, now what do you do? How much damage did the deer cause? I'm going to be late for work and there's a deer under my car!

First, if you do strike a deer, do not approach it. If it isn't dead, it's hooves can be quite dangerous if the animal starts thrashing about.

Report the deer strike to the state Highway Patrol or local law enforcement, contact your insurance agent and a tow truck for your car if necessary.

As the adrenaline wears off, the next thoughts racing through your mind will be how could this happen? What could I have done differently?

Here are some deer survival tips that may assist you while driving in the LowCountry. Deer breeding season runs from October to early January. This is when deer are most active and on the move. It is also when deer/vehicle strikes peak.

Dawn and dusk are the times most likely to encounter deer. Mind your speed and scan the road to include the sides of roads and watch for the shine of eyes. Always wear your safety belt and use high beams when the road is free of oncoming traffic. If you're traveling on a multi-lane road, use the center lane to provide a reactionary gap between the side of the road and you.

Also, watch for yellow and black diamond shaped signs with a deer on it. These signs let you know it is a high traffic area for deer, although deer can be found almost everywhere.

Do not rely on deer deterrent devices such as deer whistles. These devices have not been proven to work.

Remember, deer are pack animals and it's very rare to see a single deer without its wingman or shipmate. And of course the slower you go, the better reaction time you will have trying to avoid a deer in the road.

If you see a deer from a distance, slow down, beep your horn and flash your lights. As you approach keep slowing down until the deer moves or you slowly pass it by. If a strike is unavoidable remain calm, and above all, do not swerve to hit or miss the animal. You don't want to endanger oncoming traffic or yourself by losing control of your vehicle. 

Motorcyclists have much higher injury and fatality rates when colliding with deer. If you're on a motorcycle, again, don't swerve if a collision appears imminent. Braking hard right up to the point of impact is good, but you want to be stabilized if you do collide, which will give you the greatest chance of remaining upright.

Good, powerful lights are worth their weight in gold on a deserted road at night. Alternatively, fit a headlamp with a 100-watt high beam and always wear protective gear.

As with other accident, no one plans to hit an animal. The only way to be ready when it happens is to be ready on every ride. When riding with a group, spread out. This pattern will keep a rider who hits a deer from taking other riders down with him.

And for those of you who are not squeamish about taking deer, yes, you can keep the deer for meat, provided the kill is reported to the appropriate officials so you can prove the deer wasn't taken illegally.