​It's a deer's world, and we only drive in it

Oct. 21, 2021

A deer crossing a road

November is coming soon, bringing with it pictures of turkeys, pumpkin spice everything, and deer mating season. It's the time of year when deer are most active, which means it's the time of year when the most deer-vehicle crashes occur in Minnesota.​

It's hard to know exactly how many deer-vehicle crashes we've had over the past few years, because an estimated two-thirds go unreported. ​There were 6,218 reported crashes in Minnesota over the five-year period from 2016 to 2020, resulting in 18 deaths and 124 serious injuries. It's important to note motorcyclists accounted for 15 of the deaths and 109 of the serious injuries.

How best to avoid dying in a deer-vehicle crash? ​That depends on what you're driving. If you're in a car or truck, the key is not to swerve. If you swerve, you're more likely to drive into oncoming traffic or go off the road. Instead, brake and hit the deer. It may seem counterintuitive, but it gives you a better chance at survival.

As always, don't forget your seat belt, and remind your passengers to put theirs on, too. It's your best line of defense in a crash, no matter the cause.

If you're riding a motorcycle, avoiding a collision with a deer is a bit different. Brake using both front and rear brakes to stop as quickly as possible. If you can't avoid hitting the deer, keep your head up and try to swerve slowly behind the animal. If you're wearing a helmet and protective gear, you're more likely to survive the collision.

Whatever you're driving, be especially cautious between 6 and 9 p.m. That's when deer are most active. Remember that they're not just in rural areas anymore – recently, deer are found more and more in urban areas. Watch for the reflection of their eyes and for deer silhouettes along the shoulder of the road, and slow down in areas where deer are more active, such as where the road divides forested land.

Sometimes, despite your best intentions, hitting a deer is impossible to avoid. If you do hit a deer and you're a Minnesota resident, you can claim it by contacting any law enforcement officer. They can issue you an authorization permit allowing you to lawfully possess the deer. If it's blocking the road or presents any other public safety risk, you should also call law enforcement.

If you drive carefully and keep these tips in mind, hopefully you can avoid dealing with the aftermath of a crash with a deer and instead spend the fall doing what you want – whether it involves pumpkin spice or not.​