The West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program (GHSP) reminds drivers to exercise extra caution, as October through December is peak season for animal collisions. The fall is breeding season for deer, so their movement increases, especially at dawn and dusk. Drivers need to be especially alert during this time of year, as deer and other animals will be present on or near roadways.
“West Virginia is almost always at the top of the list for having the highest risk for hitting animals on roadways. We want drivers to remember to be extremely cautious, especially during this time of year when we know more animal collisions occur,” said GHSP Director Bob Tipton.
According to recently released findings by researchers at the University of Washington in Seattle, animal collisions spike by 16% during the two-week period following the autumn time change when Daylight Saving Time ends. The study also found that collisions are 14 times more frequent two hours after sunset than two hours before sunset, averaged across all states.
To avoid an animal collision, the GHSP offers these safety tips:
- Be alert, especially at dawn and dusk when deer are more active.
- Be extra vigilant and reduce vehicle speed near wooded areas or green spaces, such as parks and golf courses, and near water sources such as streams and ponds.
- Pay attention to “deer crossing” signs, as they indicate areas where high numbers of vehicle-deer collisions have occurred in the past; be extra cautious in these areas.
- If you see one deer, expect others, as deer typically travel in herds.
- Use high beams when there is no oncoming traffic and scan the roadway for the reflective eyes of deer and other animals. Flicking your high beams on an animal in the road may cause the animal to run away. High beams also help illuminate dark roads.
- Always wear a seat belt and use appropriate child safety seats, as these are the best defenses in any collision.
- Put your phone away while you’re driving. Distracted driving is as deadly as impaired driving and is illegal.
- Never drive while impaired by drugs or alcohol.
- Brake as necessary. If you can avoid hitting the animal, reduce your speed, honk your horn and tap your brakes to warn other drivers. If there are no drivers behind you, brake hard.
- Do not swerve to avoid hitting a deer. If a car crash is inevitable, maintain control of your vehicle and don’t veer off the road. The most serious crashes can occur when motorists veer into oncoming traffic and collide with another vehicle; or run off the road, hit objects, or overturn.
If a collision occurs, move your vehicle to the shoulder of the roadway, if possible, and call local law enforcement at 911 or the West Virginia State Police at *77. Remain in your vehicle with your seat belt fastened. If a secondary collision would occur, drivers and passengers are better protected when inside their vehicles and properly restrained. To remove a deer carcass or any part of a deer from a crash site, a non-hunting tag must be obtained from the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (DNR). Contact information for local DNR districts is listed in West Virginia’s hunting regulations which can be found at wvdnr.gov. If the crash occurs after normal office hours, drivers may call the next day.
For more information about the West Virginia Governor’s Highway Safety Program, visit highwaysafety.wv.gov or call 304-926-2509.