PROVIDENCE – The Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is advising motorists to be on high alert for deer crossing roadways, particularly at dawn and dusk. The deer breeding season (known as the "rut") is currently underway and will continue through November and much of December. Deer tend to move around far more frequently during this time, and November is typically the peak period for collisions with motor vehicles. Hitting a deer can easily total your car and, depending on its severity, the average collision can cost between $2,500 and $6,000 in repairs, according to auto body industry estimates. Moreover, nationally, there were 190 deaths from collisions with animals in 2018, according to the Insurance Information Institute. There were 1,163 reported vehicle-deer collisions in 2020, according to DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife.
To avoid hitting a deer, use the Insurance Information Institute's defensive driving tips:
• Be especially attentive during peak deer hours. From sunset to midnight and during the hours shortly before and after sunrise are the highest risk times for deer-vehicle collisions.
• Use extra caution when driving through deer-crossing zones. Scan the shoulders of the road in front of you; deer may dash out from the shoulder or wooded areas adjacent to the road. Also be especially careful in places known to have a large deer population and in areas where roads divide agricultural fields from forestland.
• Know that deer seldom run alone. If you see one deer, others may be nearby.
• Use high beam headlights if driving at night when there is no oncoming traffic. The higher light will better illuminate the eyes of deer on or near the roadway.
• Follow the speed limit. Keeping your speed down will give you more time to respond to unexpected wildlife movements.
• Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away.
• Brake firmly but stay in your lane when you notice a deer in or near your path. Many serious crashes occur when drivers swerve to avoid a deer and hit another vehicle or lose control of their cars.
• Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in car-deer crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
• Do not rely on deer-deterring devices. Deer whistles, deer fences, and reflectors have not been proven to reduce deer-vehicle collisions.
• If your vehicle strikes a deer, do not touch the animal. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. The best procedure is to get your car off the road, if possible, and call the police.
• In the event a deer damages your car, contact your insurance agent or company representative to report the incident.
In accordance with state law, any deer-vehicle collision must be reported to DEM's 24-hour Dispatch Office at 222-3070, as well as to local police and your insurance company. You can also notify DEM Dispatchers if you see an injured or road-killed deer. Though small consolation, the owner of the vehicle involved in the accident may choose to keep the deer with a permit from DEM. The owner may request a permit when calling the 24-hour dispatch office to report the accident.
DEM works to protect and enhance wildlife habitat in Rhode Island forests and management areas to ensure healthier, more diverse, and abundant wildlife populations. White-tailed deer are a common sight in Rhode Island, with large populations all over the state, including many of the Bay Islands. Hunting has proven to be the most cost-effective, efficient, and successful method of controlling deer populations, which in turn ensures that the population remains in balance with ecological and social factors. Hunting deer is a traditional use of this natural resource for meat and hide. Click here for the latest Deer Harvest and Deer Hunter Summary. This information serves as a guide to future management decisions to ensure there is continued hunting opportunity for hunters while maintaining a healthy deer population.
For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow DEM on Facebook, Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM), or Instagram (@rhodeisland.dem) for timely updates. Follow DEM's Division of Fish and Wildlife for more information on deer hunting and other topics on Facebook and Instagram (@ri.fishwildlife).