Avoid Hitting a Deer in Colorado

Deer crossing a road in Colorado

Colorado’s natural beauty is a wonder to behold, but it also brings with it a unique set of challenges for drivers. One of these challenges is the presence of wildlife, particularly deer and elk. These large animals are abundant in Colorado, and during their migration seasons, they become even more active and unpredictable on the roads. Thousands of accidents are reported annually, either from hitting an animal or swerving to avoid one. Read our tips for avoiding a wildlife collision this migration season. 

How to Avoid Hitting a Deer with Your Car

Be Aware of Migration Seasons

Colorado’s deer and elk migrations typically occur in the spring and fall, with the most significant movements in October and November. Be especially cautious during these months. Stay informed about specific migration patterns in your area. Local wildlife agencies often provide updates and warnings to drivers.

Reduce Speed, Increase Reaction Time

Slow down, especially during dusk and dawn when wildlife are most active.Reducing your speed increases your reaction time, giving you a better chance at avoiding a collision.

Use High Beams (When Safe)

High beams can help you spot wildlife from a greater distance. However, be considerate of other drivers and switch to low beams when another vehicle is approaching.

Pay Attention to Road Signs

Watch for wildlife warning signs, particularly in areas known for frequent animal crossings. These signs are strategically placed to alert you to potential danger zones.

Stay Centered in Your Lane

Driving in the center of your lane gives you more room to maneuver if an animal suddenly appears on the road.

Scan the Roadside

Continuously scan the sides of the road for movement or reflective eyes. Wildlife can easily blend into their surroundings, making them hard to spot. 

Avoid Distractions

As you would hopefully do in any driving situation, stay focused on the road. Avoid distractions like texting, talking on the phone, or even adjusting the radio. It takes only a split second for an animal to appear, and you lose valuable reaction time being distracted.

Don’t Swerve Unnecessarily

If an animal does suddenly cross your path, your first instinct may be to swerve out of its way. However, swerving is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents where wildlife are concerned. Death can occur when the vehicle swerves into oncoming traffic, into a tree, or in a rollover off the side of the road. Unless you are in a situation where there are no obstacles or oncoming traffic, it is much safer to firmly brake and, hopefully, miss the animal or only lightly hit it. 

Use Your Horn 

If you spot an animal on the road, honk your horn to try to scare it away. Animals may be startled and move off the road if they hear the sound of a vehicle approaching.

Be Prepared for a Second Animal

Deer and elk often travel in groups. If you see one, be prepared for others to follow. Wait a moment after passing the first animal to ensure there are no others.

Buckle Up and Secure Your Pets

Always wear your seatbelt, and make sure your pets are safely secured in the vehicle. Unrestrained pets can be a distraction and get injured in a collision.

Is it Illegal to Hit a Deer and Drive Off?

No, it is not illegal to hit a deer and drive away. However, it can be irresponsible and inhumane. An injured or deceased large animal in the middle of a roadway poses a risk for other drivers. Furthermore, if the animal is severely injured, it should not be left to suffer unnecessarily. If you do have an accident that involves hitting a deer, be sure to report it to local law enforcement. They can move the animal to a safer location and, if necessary, euthanize it.

Does Car Insurance Cover Hitting a Deer?

If you have comprehensive auto insurance, it will likely cover hitting a deer, elk, or other wildlife. This includes any injuries sustained from the accident as well as damage to your vehicle. 

If you need assistance filing your auto insurance claim after hitting a deer, contact an experienced attorney. Damages from these accidents can be significant, and may even be due to negligence by the county or state. For example, if a sign indicating the presence of wildlife was obscured or damaged, you may have the right to pursue legal action in addition to filing an insurance claim. In Colorado, Dave Roth is a highly skilled personal injury and insurance attorney. If you have had an accident, call or go online today to schedule a free consultation