Very Early One chilly morning late last month, I was piloting a rig along a two-lane rural highway, enjoying the crisp air and the lack of traffic. Suddenly, a deer bounded onto the roadway from a corn field on my right and froze.

I immediately slowed down and hit the air horn, but the deer stayed put.

Realizing I wasn't going to be able to stop in time, some advice I received from a veteran trucker when I first got into trucking popped into my mind: “Aim for the deer. They'll run off, but you won't know which way.”

I steered for the deer, mentally guessing it would run across the road. Wrong. It ran back the way it had come.

This being my first deer-vehicle encounter, I wanted to know if there are precautions drivers can take to prevent such accidents. So I contacted safety officials.

I learned that statistically, the majority of deer-vehicle collisions occur during the fall and winter, as this is the deer migration and mating season, and deer are the most active.

More accidents occur during the night, or anytime between dusk and dawn, because deer are nocturnal animals and spend most of their time foraging during these periods.

Safety officials said the most effective way to avoid deer-vehicle collisions is through attentive driving behavior, and noted that driver reaction usually dictates the severity of such accidents.

They recommended a number of precautions to keep drivers safe and minimize the chances of colliding with a deer when driving:

  • Heed “deer crossing” signs and decrease speed in these areas. Be especially watchful in areas near woods, farmland, and water. And when driving through these areas, keep eyes moving and continually glance to both sides of the road.

  • Don't rely on devices such as deer whistles, deer fences, and reflectors to deter deer.

  • At night, use high-beam headlights to better illuminate the edges of the road where deer may linger. Look for the reflection of light in a deer's eyes.

  • Headlights tend to hypnotize deer when a vehicle approaches. If a deer is spotted, be alert, slow down quickly, and sound the horn to try and scare it away.

  • If one deer is spotted, more are usually more nearby, as deer often travel in groups and in single file.

  • Deer are unpredictable in their movements, especially when confronted with glaring headlights, blaring horns, and moving vehicles. Don't assume to know which way a deer will move.

  • If a collision seems inevitable, brake firmly and attempt to stop. Do not swerve to avoid deer as vehicle control may be lost, increasing the risk of injury by hitting another vehicle or a fixed object like a tree.

  • If a deer is struck, stay away from it. It may just be stunned and could become very aggressive if aroused. Report the accident to the Game Commission or local law enforcement.

Be sure to share these suggestions with your drivers and all employees.

You may be interested to know that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimates there are some 1.5 million deer-vehicle collisions annually in the US, causing more than 150 fatalities and 10,000 injuries.

I welcome your thoughts and comments.