Watch for wildlife on Oregon’s roads and highways
In late September, deer and elk begin their annual migration to wintering grounds, and often have to cross roads and highways to get there. Here are 7 tips to help avoid a collision.
On average, ODOT documents more than 6,000 vehicle collisions with deer and elk each year. There are probably more since many collisions aren't reported if there's minimal damage.
Collisions with deer and elk tend to peak in October and November with the onset of both migration and breeding seasons. Here are a few tips for protecting you, and Oregon’s wildlife, while on the road.
1. DON’T SWERVE to avoid an animal. Instead, stay in your lane and try to maintain control of your car. Many serious crashes happen when drivers hit a tree or oncoming vehicle while swerving to avoid a collision with an animal.
2. Know when to be extra alert. While wildlife/vehicle collisions occur throughout the year – on any given day, at any given time and on any given road – most vehicle collisions occur:
- In October and November. This is deer and elk mating season and animals are on the move. Deer and elk also are migrating from their summer to winter ranges.
- In the hours around dawn and dusk, when animals are actively moving between food, water and cover.
- On rural two-lane state highways with a 55 mph speed limit. Many animals avoid four-lane or Interstate highways, and on smaller roads drivers typically drive slow enough to avoid collisions.
Try to prevent collisions with these driving habits:
- Slow down at times and in areas where wildlife collisions might occur.
- Use your bright lights, when you safely can.
- Don’t tailgate the car in front of you. If it stops suddenly to avoid an animal in the road, you don’t want to be a part of the collision.
- If you’re on a four-lane road at night, dawn or dusk, drive on the inside lane away from the shoulder (without holding up the traffic behind you) so you can avoid any animals standing/grazing on the side of the road.
4. Be extra alert when roadside vegetation is thick. You may be able to see animal coming through an open field, but if the road is lined with dense vegetation you might not see an animal until just before a collision.
5. Remember, deer often travel in groups. If you see one animal running across the road, stop for a minute as others may follow.
6. Heed wildlife crossing signs. These can be easy to ignore if you’ve driven by them dozens of times and have never seen an animal crossing the road. But they there for a reason – they mark areas known to have had wildlife/vehicle collisions.
7. Consider buying a Watch for Wildlife license plate for your car. The sale of these plates will provide critical funds for projects that help wildlife migrate safely, such as wildlife crossings over or under busy highways. And they look pretty cool, too.
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