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Remember – Don’t Veer For Deer, But A Horse Is A Different Story

By David Howell

November is here bringing the annual press release from MDOT warning motorists to be alert for deer. The advice comes as the number of reported collisions with deer across Mississippi increase each fall as the days get shorter, the temperature drops and deer movement increases. That movement will increase even more when the mating season gets underway next month, bucks will blindly cross the road running into your vehicle or the path of your vehicle.

Last year there were 3,784 reported deer-related crashes in Mississippi. MDOT reports this year there have already been 1,915 deer-related crashes in the Magnolia State.

One of the most important tips shared by MDOT is don’t veer for deer. If a deer runs in front of a moving car, remain calm and brake firmly.

This is advice I often share with my wife and others. If you are traveling at highway speeds, the single most important thing you can do is not swerve. Sound like simple advice, but your first instinct is to yank the steering wheel when a deer suddenly appears in front of you.

Don’t do it.

Instead hit your brakes and go ahead and nail the deer instead of swerving, especially if you are traveling at highway speeds. Usually several thousand dollars can repair a vehicle damaged by a deer. Not so if you swerve and lose control, striking a tree or landing upside down.

My wife has always countered that her fear is the deer will come over the hood and through the windshield. That could happen, but the odds are probably slim.

Her fear is founded if you encounter a larger animal on the roadway, such as a horse. Last month first responders in the county responded to a crash involving a small car and two horses and it was a tough scene. One of the horses was killed after hitting the windshield. Both occupants in the vehicle sustained severe injuries. I’m not sure what advice to give if you round a curve or top a hill and encounter a horse without time to stop, you better make a judgment call and make it fast.

But let’s get back to deer and those tips from MDOT. It’s also important to be alert and keep a watch along the roadway in front of you. If you see one deer, there is likely another more coming.

Be especially cautious when driving at dusk and dawn. MDOT reports about 20 percent of deer related crashes occur in early morning, while more than half occur between 5 p.m. and midnight. Be sure to use your high beams at night when no traffic is approaching, it helps illuminate the eyes of deer near the road.

Some experts believe that honking your horn will scare deer off the road if you spot one in the distance. Do not rely on hood whistles or other devices designed to scare off deer – studies have shown them largely ineffective at minimizing accidents.

Be careful out there and remember, if you have a big buck on your land it’s best to be proactive. Call me and I will hang a stand and see if I can help rid you of that nuisance. I can’t imagine why MDOT left that off their press release.

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