by Tianna G. Hansen
Have you ever experienced the “deer in the headlights” sensation where your entire body freezes in response to fear?
This feeling’s description is accurate to what we see as the fall weather sets in and we’re back on the road – deer become more common on wooded back roads and highways alike.
So, what is behind this “freeze” response in deer and what are some tips for remaining safe behind the wheel during deer season? Read on!
Deer and car collisions rise to a peak during fall breeding season.
Males are on the move to find a mate; unreceptive females are fleeing, and cars are intercepting the mating ritual as more manmade roads travel through forests.
Ever wonder why you’ll see more deer on the roads around the times when you commute to and from work?
Deer are crepuscular animals, meaning they are most active during times of low light (dusk, dawn). Because of this, their vision is optimized for lower light.
When their eyes are caught in headlights, deer become blinded and freeze so their eyes can adjust. It’s a typical fear response and survival instinct.
There has been research done particularly on white-tailed deer; one such study by the University of Georgia determined that deer are legally blind by human standards. While deer are better adapted to detecting motion, their eyesight is rather poor for distance compared to humans.
If you see a deer frozen in your headlights:
- Give a good blast of your horn to startle it back into motion. (This has saved me on more than one occasion).
- Never swerve to avoid hitting a deer (you may end up hitting a tree or oncoming car instead).
Keep an eye out for “deer crossing” signs that warn of high deer population areas, and always be more aware while driving during dusk and dawn.