Deer grazing near roadways may look innocent but they can pose a possible hazard — even a deadly one — for drivers.
As fall arrives, the animals’ presence becomes an even greater danger. A higher percentage of deer are now more likely to dart out into the road as they are in the midst of their rutting season, which runs from October through December. Driving during dusk and dawn exacerbates the problem with reduced visibility.
According to a press release from AAA Northeast, there were 36,445 animal crashes in New York State in 2019, and the number of crashes has increased over the past five years. Suffolk County was found to have the third highest amount of animal crashes with 1,415. In 2019, Brookhaven had 423 animal crashes while Smithtown had 120.
The data was taken from the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, an affiliate with the University at Albany’s Rockefeller College of Public Affairs, which does not cite which animals were involved in the crash. However AAA Northeast said in its press release that “data from New York and other states previous years found deer were involved in 88 to 98 percent of crashes.”
“Striking a deer can be extremely dangerous, with the animal possibly going through the windshield, seriously injuring or killing the driver and passengers,” said Robert Sinclair Jr., spokesman for AAA Northeast.
AAA Northeast recommends drivers brake gently and avoid swerving when encountering any animals.
“Going to the right could send the vehicle into a ditch, tree or light pole,” the AAA Northeast press release said. “Swerving to the left could result in a lethal head-on crash. Even hitting the brakes hard could send the front end of the vehicle into a nosedive, promoting the animal rolling up the hood and through the windshield.”
Other tips from AAA and insurance companies include:
● Be extra cautious when you see a deer-crossing sign along a roadway. The sign means that there have been deer-vehicle collisions near the sign location.
● Decrease speed when you approach deer near roadsides as they can bolt out or change direction quickly. If you see a deer, look for others as they are herd animals and usually travel in groups. Especially during rutting season when a buck may be chasing a doe.
● Move your vehicle to a safe place if you hit an animal. If possible, pull over to the side of the road and turn on your hazard lights. If you must leave your vehicle, stay off the road and out of the way of any oncoming vehicles.
● Call the police. Alert authorities if the animal is blocking traffic and creating a threat for other drivers. If the collision results in injury, death or more than $1,000 in property damage, you must fill out an official crash report and send it to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.
● Look for leaking fluid, loose parts, tire damage, broken lights, a hood that won’t latch and other safety hazards. If your vehicle seems unsafe in any way, call for a tow truck.
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation recommends not getting out of your car and approaching an injured animal as they can strike out with their legs or hooves. In Brookhaven, residents can call the Animal Shelter at 631-451-6950 to report deceased deer on the road or curbside. Town employees cannot remove animals found on front lawns, backyards or on driveways.